Authors: Chase H. Smith, Nathan A. Johnson, Kaitlyn Havlik, Robert D. Doyle, Charles R. Randklev

Species are a fundamental unit of biology, and defining accurate species boundaries is integral to effective conservation and management of imperiled taxa. Freshwater mussels (Bivalvia: Unionidae) are among the most imperiled groups of organisms in North America, yet species boundaries remain uncertain for many taxa. The False Spike, Fusconaia mitchelli (Simpson in Dall, 1895), is a freshwater mussel considered to be endemic to central Texas (Brazos, Colorado, and Guadalupe drainages). Recent research revealed significant intraspecific genetic variation between geographically separated populations of Fmitchelli, which could be indicative of speciation; however, small sample sizes for several of the populations precluded formal taxonomic revision. Here, we increase taxon sampling and use multilocus DNA sequence data and traditional morphometrics to re‐evaluate species boundaries in Fmitchelli. We sequenced three loci: the protein‐coding mitochondrial DNA genes cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 and NADH dehydrogenase 1, and the nuclear internal transcribed spacer 1. Phylogenetic analyses depicted deep genetic divergence between Fmitchelli in the Guadalupe and those in the Brazos and Colorado drainages, which was further supported by available biogeographic information. Morphometric analyses and coalescent‐based species delimitation models integrating both DNA sequence and morphological data provided strong support for the divergence observed between the two geographically isolated clades of Fmitchelli. Based on these results, we revise taxonomy accordingly by elevating the junior synonym Fusconaia iheringi (Wright, 1898) to represent the Brazos and Colorado populations and restrict the distribution of Fmitchelli to the Guadalupe River drainage. Our findings may impact pending management decisions to protect Fmitchelli under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Suggested Citation

Smith, C.H., Johnson, N.A., Havlik, K., Doyle, R.D. and Randklev, C.R. 2020. Resolving species boundaries in the critically imperiled freshwater mussel species, Fusconaia mitchelli (Bivalvia: Unionidae). Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research.