This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ Preprints) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.
Ligia isopods are conspicuous inhabitants of rocky intertidal habitats exhibiting several biological traits that severely limit their dispersal potential. Their presence in patchy habitats and low vagility may lead to long term isolation, allopatric isolation and possible cryptic speciation. Indeed, various species of Ligia have been suggested to represent instead cryptic species complexes. Past studies; however, have largely focused in Eastern Pacific and Atlantic species of Ligia, leaving in doubt whether cryptic diversity occurs in other highly biodiverse areas. The Seychelles consists of 115 islands of different ages and geological origins spread across the western Indian Ocean. They are well known for their rich biodiversity with recent reports of cryptic species in terrestrial Seychellois organisms. Despite these studies, it is unclear whether coastal invertebrates from the Seychelles harbor any cryptic diversity. In this study, we examined patterns of genetic diversity and isolation within Ligia isopods across the Seychelles archipelago by characterizing individuals from locations across both inner and outer islands of the Seychelles using mitochondrial and nuclear markers. We report the presence of highly divergent lineages of independent origin. At Aldabra Atoll, we uncovered a lineage closely related tothe Ligia vitiensis cryptic species complex. Within the inner islands of Cousine, Silhouette, and Mahé we detected the presence of two moderately divergent and geographically disjunct lineages most closely related to Ligia dentipes. Our findings suggest that the Seychelles may harbor at least three novel species of Ligia in need of description and that these species may have originated independently.