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Padula, Vinicius; Bahia, Juliana; Stöger, Isabella; Camacho-Garcia, Yolanda; Malaquias, Manuel Antonio E.; Lucas Cervera, Juan; Schrödl, Michael (2016): A test of color-based taxonomy in nudibranchs: Molecular phylogeny and species delimitation of the Felimida clenchi (Mollusca: Chromodorididae) species complex. In: Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Vol. 103: pp. 215-229
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Traditionally, species identification in nudibranch gastropods relies heavily on body color pattern. The Felimida clenchi species complex, a group of brightly colored Atlantic and Mediterranean species in the family Chromodorididae, has a history of exceptional controversy and discussion among taxonomists. The most widely accepted hypothesis is that the complex includes four species (Felimida clenchi, F. neona, F. binza and F. britoi), each with a characteristic body color pattern. In this study, we investigated the taxonomic value of coloration in the Felimida clenchi complex, using molecular phylogenetics, species delimitation analyses (ABGD, GMYC, PTP), haplotype-network methods, and the anatomy of the reproductive system. None of our analyses recovered the traditional separation into four species. Our results indicated the existence of three species, a result inconsistent with previous taxonomic hypotheses. We distinguished an undescribed species of Felimida and redefined the concepts of F. clenchi and F. binza, both highly polychromatic species. For the first time, molecular data support the existence of extreme color polymorphism in chromatic nudibranch species, with direct implications for the taxonomy of the group and its diversity. The polychromatism observed in the F. clenchi complex apparently correlates with the regional occurrence of similar color patterns in congeneric species, suggesting different mimicry circles. This may represent a parallel in the marine environment to the mechanisms that play a major role in the diversification of color in terrestrial and fresh-water chromatic groups, such as heliconian butterflies. (C) 2016 ELSEVIER. All rights reserved.