Using the complementary approaches of morphological and molecular taxonomy is essential to further our understanding of invertebrate diversity, including the identification of cryptic species. Although the species classification of a widespread group of arachnids, the pseudoscorpions, has been based on traditional diagnostic characters for a long time, recent taxonomic studies have suggested that some of these are unreliable for distinguishing species. Thus, the application of molecular taxonomy may be particularly useful in this group. Here, we performed molecular phylogenetic analyses and species delimitation analyses based on partial sequences of mitochondrial DNA cytochrome c oxidase I and nuclear DNA 18S rRNA genes to assess the taxonomy of species and the reliability of morphological characteristics for distinguishing species in the Japanese soil-dwelling genus Mundochthonius (Chthoniidae). Our results revealed the existence of seven major genetic clades, likely corresponding to three described species and four cryptic species. Although two described species, M. kiyoshii and M. itohi, were represented by single clades in the phylogenetic analysis, a third, M. japonicus, was composed of multiple clades, highlighting inconsistencies between phylogenetic relationships and current species classifications using traditional morphological diagnostics. This study exemplifies the need for further exploration of pseudoscorpion taxonomy and species diversity. In particular, detailed morphological examinations are expected to help determine differences among cryptic species.
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Vol. 32 • No. 2