[en] Animals ; Base Sequence ; Cluster Analysis ; DNA, Mitochondrial/genetics ; Demography ; Europe ; Evolution, Molecular ; Genetic Variation ; Genetics, Population ; Geography ; Haplotypes/genetics ; Mice/parasitology ; Molecular Sequence Data ; Phylogeny ; Population Dynamics ; Sequence Analysis, DNA ; Trichostrongyloidea/genetics
[en] This study establishes the continental phylogeographical pattern of a European nematode, Heligmosomoides polygyrus (Dujardin, 1845; Heligmosomoidea). We sequenced 687 base pairs of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) cyt b gene for 136 individuals collected in 22 localities. The results revealed that H. polygyrus populations are separated into five major units corresponding to the Italian, northern European (Denmark and Ireland), Iberian, western European, and Balkan populations. Different subclades were also observed within the first two groups. Based on the rate of molecular evolution of H. polygyrus cyt b gene-estimated to 3.5%-3.7% divergence per million years (Myr) in a previous study--the isolation time of the five clades was estimated between 2.5 +/- 0.24 and 1.5 +/- 0.23 million years ago. Moreover, H. polygyrus presents a higher genetic variability in the Mediterranean peninsulas as compared to northwestern Europe, highlighting the role of these regions as refuge areas. Like its specific host, the wood mouse Apodemus sylvaticus, H. polygyrus' pattern of postglacial recolonization of northwestern Europe was initiated from Iberian populations, while Italian and Balkan populations did not expand to the north. The results also suggest the existence of forested and temperate refuges in the southern British Isles during the Quaternary. Finally, the genetic diversity as well as the level of genetic divergence between the lineages of H. polygyrus are compared to those observed in other vertebrate and invertebrate phylogeographical studies: the existence of highly differentiated lineages in H. polygyrus (5%-10% of genetic divergence) highlights that the effects of Pleistocene climate changes on free-living organisms are also reflected in their obligate parasites.