Three dispersal routes out of Africa: A puzzling biogeographical history in freshwater planarians

Eduard Solà, Laia Leria, Giacinta Angela Stocchino, Reza Bagherzadeh, Michael Balke, Savel R. Daniels, Abdel Halim Harrath, Tsung Fei Khang, Duangduen Krailas, Biju Kumar, Mei Hui Li, Abdolvahab Maghsoudlou, Midori Matsumoto, Niamul Naser, Benedicta Oben, Ori Segev, Matthias Thielicke, Xiaoli Tong, Goran Zivanovic, Renata ManconiJaume Baguñà, Marta Riutort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: Freshwater planarians may have a wide geographical range despite their assumed low vagility. Found across four continents, Dugesia may have either an ancient origin on a large palaeo landmass, followed by colonisation in different regions before continental fragmentation, or a more recent origin and subsequent transoceanic dispersal. We seek to resolve between these two hypotheses. Location: Africa, Eurasia and Australasia. Taxon: Genus Dugesia (Platyhelminthes: Tricladida: Dugesiidae). Methods: We used data from the sequencing of six gene fragments and comprehensive taxonomic sampling of Dugesia from across its distribution range to reconstruct the phylogeny of this genus using maximum likelihood and bayesian inference methods. We conducted two phylogenetic dating analyses using Platyhelminthes fossils and palaeogeological events. Basing on the time-calibrated molecular phylogenetic framework we evaluated the contribution of vicariance and dispersal to the biogeographical evolution of Dugesia. By reconstructing the ancestral areas and present-day potential distribution using BioGeoBEARS and niche modelling, we elucidated the biogeographical history of the genus. Results: The present-day distribution of Dugesia is a result of different vicariance and dispersal events. However, we also found evidence of transoceanic dispersal. Consistent with previous hypotheses, Dugesia dates to the Upper Jurassic in the Afro-Malagasy Gondwana region. We unveiled a novel biogeographical scenario for the genus, involving multiple events of colonisation in Eurasia from continental Africa via at least three dispersal routes. Main conclusions: Dugesia is an ancient genus having reached its present distribution through a complex history of dispersal and vicariant events following its origin in southern Gondwana. Despite the low vagility of Dugesia, we found evidence of their overseas dispersal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1219-1233
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Jul


  • Gondwana
  • Madagascar
  • Mesozoic
  • Platyhelminthes
  • Tricladida
  • vicariance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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