Local adaptation fuels cryptic speciation in terrestrial annelids

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Uncovering the genetic and evolutionary basis of cryptic speciation is a major focus of evolutionary biology. Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) allows the identification of genome-wide local adaptation signatures, but has rarely been applied to cryptic complexes - particularly in the soil milieu - as it is the case with integrative taxonomy. The earthworm genus Carpetania, comprising six previously suggested putative cryptic lineages, is a promising model to study the evolutionary phenomena shaping cryptic speciation in soil-dwelling lineages. Genotyping-By-Sequencing (GBS) was used to provide genome-wide information about genetic variability between 17 populations, and geometric morphometrics analyses of genital chaetae were performed to investigate unexplored cryptic morphological evolution. Genomic analyses revealed the existence of three cryptic species, with half of the previously-identified potential cryptic lineages clustering within them. Local adaptation was detected in more than 800 genes putatively involved in a plethora of biological functions (most notably reproduction, metabolism, immunological response and morphogenesis). Several genes with selection signatures showed shared mutations for each of the cryptic species, and genes under selection were enriched in functions related to regulation of transcription, including SNPs located in UTR regions. Finally, geometric morphometrics approaches partially confirmed the phylogenetic signal of relevant morphological characters such as genital chaetae. Our study therefore unveils that local adaptation and regulatory divergence are key evolutionary forces orchestrating genome evolution in soil fauna.