Zoological Letters (Feb 2020)

A new redescription of Richtersius coronifer, supported by transcriptome, provides resources for describing concealed species diversity within the monotypic genus Richtersius (Eutardigrada)

  • Daniel Stec,
  • Łukasz Krzywański,
  • Kazuharu Arakawa,
  • Łukasz Michalczyk

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 6, no. 1
pp. 1 – 25


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Abstract Richtersius coronifer, the nominal species for the family Richtersiidae and a popular laboratory model, exemplifies a common problem in modern tardigrade taxonomy. Despite undeniable progress in the field, many old and incomplete descriptions of taxa hinder both species delimitation and the estimation of species diversity and distribution. Although for over a century this species has been recorded throughout the world, recent research indicates that records to date are likely to represent a species complex rather than a single cosmopolitan species. However, in order to recognise and name species diversity within the complex, an integrative redescription of the nominal species is first needed. Here, we describe an R. coronifer population collected from Spitsbergen, i.e., one of the two localities mentioned in the original description, with detailed morphological and morphometric data associated with standard DNA sequences of four standard genetic markers (18S rRNA, 28S rRNA, ITS-2, and COI) and supported by transcriptome sequencing. We propose replacement of the neotype designated in 1981 by Maucci and Ramazzotti, as it is impossible to verify whether the existing neotype is conspecific with specimens studied by Richters in 1903 and 1904. Finally, using newly obtained cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) sequences of populations from Spitsbergen, Italy, Poland, and Greece together with sequences deposited in GenBank (China, Greenland, Italy, Mongolia), we performed genetic species delimitation, which indicated seven distinct potential species within the genus Richtersius, in addition to the nominal taxon. This study marks a starting point for further research on the taxonomy of and species diversity within the genus. Moreover, this work has the potential to be the first tardigrade redescription to provide both genetic barcodes and a transcriptome of the species in question.