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.
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