Three new species of Pristionchus (P. exspectatus, P. arcanus, and P. japonicus) are described from Japan. They are morphologically similar, with P. exspectatus and P. arcanus being almost indistinguishable from the model organism P. pacificus. Reproductive isolation, namely the inability to produce interfertile F1 hybrids, separates all species pairs in the species complex. Additionally, all three new species are distinguished from P. pacificus Sommer, Carta, Kim, and Sternberg, 1996 by having a gonochoristic instead of hermaphroditic mode of reproduction. In addition to its reproductive isolation, P. japonicus is distinct from other Pristionchus species by its arrangement of genital papillae. All species in the complex are separated from each other by molecular sequence divergence, as indicated by analysis of 27 nuclear protein-coding genes and unique sequences of the small subunit ribosomal RNA gene. The identification of a species complex that includes P. pacificus is invaluable for studies of population genetics, speciation, and macroevolution, particularly the evolution of hermaphroditism in the genus.
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Vol. 29 • No. 6