Molecular and morphometric assessment of the taxonomic status of Ectemnorhinus weevil species (Coleoptera : Curculionidae, Entiminae) from the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands

19 April 2007

There are long-standing controversies on the taxonomic status of Ectemnorhinus weevil species occurring on the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands. Since the two islands that constitute the Prince Edward Islands archipelago (PEIA), Marion Island (MI) and Prince Edward Island (PEI), differ in terms of alien invasive species such as the introduced house mouse Mus musculus and conservation management strategies, it is important to consider inter-island dynamics when investigating inter-specific relationships. Using a combined molecular phylogenetic and morphometric approach, we attempted to resolve the taxonomic status of the PEIA Ectemnorhinus weevil species. A COI gene phylogeny was inferred following the genetic characterization of 52 Ectemnorhinus weevils from both islands, and morphometric assessment using a set of 15 linear, external measurements was used to differentiate between the two currently recognized species, Ectemnorhinus similis and Ectemnorhinus marioni. Analyses revealed the presence of two genetically and morphometrically distinct species on PEI, whilst evidence for a single species, comprising diverse genetically discrete populations was found on MI. Based on these results, the species unique to PEI has been designated Ectemnorhinus kuscheli n. sp. whilst we confirm the synonymy between E. similis and E. marioni, the two species originally described from MI. E. kuscheli appears to be restricted to PEI, whereas E. similis occurs on both MI and PEI.