Cryptic sympatric species across the Australian range of the global estuarine invader Ficopomatus enigmaticus (Fauvel, 1923) (Serpulidae, Annelida)

Craig A. Styan*, Claire F. McCluskey, Yanan Sun, Elena K. Kupriyanova

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Ficopomatus enigmaticus (Fauvel, 1923) is a reef-building serpulid polychaete that has invaded estuaries worldwide, causing environmental and economic harm. Although Australia has long been suggested as a place of origin for the species, this remains unclear. We tested for genetic patterns across the range of F. enigmaticus in southern Australia, predicting that if the species is an Australian native, it would show evidence of (east-west) phylogeographic patterns often observed in native marine species in southern Australia. Unexpectedly, concordant patterns from mitochondrial (Cyt B) sequencing and nuclear marker (iSSR) profiles suggested the presence of at least three genetic groups (putative species), not distributed simply as “east” or “west”. Two common (and closely related) groups were present across Australia and were often found together in the same aggregations. A third group was only found in southeast Australia and was morphologically similar to F. uschakovi (Pillai, 1960), a species previously reported from tropical areas. The discovery of multiple cryptic species with overlapping ranges means that more work is needed to resolve whether any of the F. enigmaticus sensu lato group has an Australian origin and to determine how they are related to invasive populations of F. enigmaticus elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-65
Number of pages13
JournalAquatic Invasions
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • cryptic species
  • invasions
  • Serpulidae
  • Annelida
  • estuaries

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