Gondwanian relicts and oceanic dispersal in a cosmopolitan radiation of euedaphic ground beetles

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Anillini are a tribe of minute, euedaphic ground beetles (Carabidae) characterized by the loss of eyes, loss of wings and high levels of local endemism. Despite their presumed low dispersal, they have a nearly cosmopolitan distribution, including isolated islands such as New Zealand and New Caledonia. We used a time calibrated molecular phylogeny to test, first, if the tribe as currently understood is monophyletic and, second, whether the time of divergence is compatible with an early vicariant diversification after the breakup of Gondwana. We sequenced portions of 6 mitochondrial and 3 nuclear genes for 66 specimens in 17 genera of Anillini plus 39 outgroups. The resulting phylogenetic tree was used to estimate the time of diversification using two independent calibration schemes, by applying molecular rates for the related genus Carabus or by dating the tree with fossil and geological information. Rates of molecular evolution and lineage ages were mostly concordant between both calibration schemes. The monophyly of Anillini was well-supported, and its age was consistent with a Gondwanian origin of the main lineages and an initial diversification at ca. 100 Ma representing the split between the eyed Nesamblyops (New Zealand) and the remaining Anillini. The subsequent diversification, including the split of the Nearctic Anillinus and the subsequent splits of Palaearctic lineages, was dated to between 80 and 100 Ma and thus was also compatible with a tectonic vicariant origin. On the contrary, the estimated age of the New Caledonian blind Orthotyphlus at ca. 30 ± 20 Ma was incompatible with a vicariant origin, suggesting the possibility of trans-oceanic dispersal in these endogean beetles.