Analyzing drivers of speciation in the Southern Ocean using the sea spider species complex Colossendeis megalonyx as a test case.
Colossendeis megalonyx Hoek, 1881 has the broadest distribution of all sea spiders in the Southern Ocean. Previous studies have detected several evolutionarily young lineages within this taxon and interpreted them as a result of allopatric speciation in a few shelf refuges during glacial maxima. However, alternative scenarios such as ecological speciation in sympatry have rarely been considered or tested. Here, we generated the most extensive genomic and morphometric data set on the C. megalonyx species complex to (i) comprehensively describe species diversity, (ii) explore intraspecific connectivity between populations located around Antarctica, and (iii) systematically test for positive selection indicative of adaptive speciation. We successfully applied a target hybrid enrichment approach and recovered all 1607 genes targeted. Phylogenomic analysis was consistent with previous findings and, moreover, increased the resolution of branching within lineages. We found specimens of phylogenetically well-separated lineages occurring in sympatry to be genetically distinct from each other and gene flow between geographically separated populations of the same lineages to be restricted. Evidence for positive selection was found for four genes associated with structural and neuronal functions. Hence, there is an indication for positive selection in the C. megalonyx species complex, yet its specific contribution to the speciation process remains to be explored further. Finally, morphometric analyses revealed multiple significant differences between lineages, but a clear separation proved difficult. Our study highlights the relevance of positive selection as a potential driver for speciation in the Southern Ocean.