TitleTracking the variability of phenotypic traits on a molecular phylogeny: an example from scolopendrid centipedes in peninsular India
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsJoshi J, Edgecombe GD
JournalOrganisms Diversity & Evolution
Date Published07/2017

Taxonomic studies on scolopendrid centipedes have often documented variability at the individual and population levels and applied those data to questions of species delimitation, but these investigations have mostly lacked an explicit phylogenetic framework. A molecular phylogeny and recent taxonomic revision for Indian species of the scolopendrid Digitipes Attems, 1930, permit variability of traditional taxonomic characters for Scolopendridae to be mapped onto a phylogeny. Based on their fit to the tree using maximum likelihood, reliable species-level characters include the number of glabrous antennal articles, presence of a median ridge on the tergites, and presence or absence of a tarsal spur on leg 20. Characters that are conserved within and diagnostic for particular species but labile within others (typically with geographic structure) include the first tergite with paramedian sutures, presence or absence of a lateral spine on the coxopleuron, and the number of spines in a ventromedial row on the ultimate leg prefemur. Comparisons with published accounts of variability in species of other scolopendrid genera, particularly Scolopendra and Otostigmus, show that Indian Digitipes has conserved morphology in some characters that are taxonomically useful elsewhere in the family, and most of its taxonomically informative characters have analogous patterns of variability in other genera. The approach used in this study to evaluate morphological variation in a phylogenetic framework can be applied to other taxa in which morphologically cryptic species have been reported and where species diagnosis requires a combination of characters.