Systematic revision of Gatesona (Crassiclitellata, Lumbricidae), an endemic earthworm genus from the Massif Central(France)

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The Massif Central in France could potentially harbor numerous ancient endemic lineages owing to its long history of continuous geological stability. Several endemic earthworm species inhabit the area, with Allolobophora (Gatesona) chaetophora, Helodrilus (Acystodrilus) and Avelona ligra showing hints of a common evolutionary origin. However, the phylogenetic relationships and taxonomic status of the species remain to be studied through integrative molecular and morphological methods. To this end, eight species including most of the known species and subspecies of All. (Gatesona), Helodrilus (Acystodrilus) musicus, and Avelona ligra were sequenced for a set of five molecular markers. The species were grouped on the basis of the molecular findings in a phylogenetic framework. All. (Gatesona) was included within the same clade as Helodrilus (Acystodrilus) and Avelona, separated from Allolobophora sensu stricto, supporting its status as a good genus. Branch lengths and average pairwise genetic distances suggested the subspecies of All. (Gatesona) chaetophora examined should be considered species-level taxa. Thus, a generic diagnosis for Gatesona stat. nov. is provided, along with redescriptions of Gatesona chaetophora comb. nov., Gatesona rutena comb. nov. stat. nov., Gatesona lablacherensis comb. nov. stat. nov. and Gatesona serninensis comb. nov. stat. nov. The study findings highlight the need for further sampling of earthworm diversity in the Massif Central (and Southern France), in addition to an increased focus on the Eastern European species of Helodrilus.
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