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Neotropical jewels in the moss: biodiversity, distribution and evolution of the genus Barbaria (Heterotardigrada: Echiniscidae)
Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society  (IF3.286),  Pub Date : 2021-09-23, DOI: 10.1093/zoolinnean/zlab087
Piotr Gąsiorek, Andrzej Wilamowski, Katarzyna Vončina, Łukasz Michalczyk

The genus Barbaria, recently established to accommodate the former Echiniscus bigranulatus group, is a tardigrade group emblematic for the South American tardigrade fauna. This unappendaged echiniscid lineage is widely recognized for the so-called ‘double’ sculpturing composed of endocuticular pillars and pseudopores or pores in the dorsal cuticle. The phylogenetic relationships in the genus have so far been completely unknown, but the discovery of two new species (B. paucigranulata sp. nov. and B. weglarskae sp. nov.), together with new genetic data for further six species (B. bigranulata, B. charrua comb. nov., B. danieli, B. jenningsi, B. madonnae and B. ollantaytamboensis), create an opportunity not only to uncover phyletic relationships, but also to reconstruct morphological evolution in the genus. To achieve this, we sequenced five genetic markers (18S rRNA, 28S rRNA, ITS1, ITS2, COI) for multiple populations of eight species of Barbaria (two-thirds of all known species) collected in Alabama (USA), Argentina and the Antarctic, and we analysed them in tandem with detailed morphological data. Our phylogentic analysis and the reconstruction of evolution of morphological traits suggests that the ancestor of the genus inhabited the Neotropics, and it was morphologically most similar to B. bigranulata. We also analyse literature records of Barbaria and conclude that the genus is most likely limited to the Neotropics, Antarctica and southern parts of the Nearctic. The findings are discussed in the context of the phylogeny of the Echiniscus evolutionary line.