Sphaeriids represent a highly diverse family of small bivalves inhabiting freshwater habitats worldwide. They are recognized for their high dispersal capacity as well as for a high capability to adapt to such extreme environments as high mountain regions over 4,000 m above sea level (a.s.l.). The Tibetan Plateau, located in central Asia, is such a high elevation area. Here, we present the first broad spatial sampling of sphaeriids from the Tibetan Plateau, which allowed us to describe the Recent fauna as well as their biogeographical background. Our study revealed six sphaeriid species inhabiting various habitats on the Tibetan Plateau: Pisidium nitidum, P. stewarti, P. subtruncatum, P. zugmayeri, Pisidium sp. I and Musculium kashmirensis. Four species are newly recorded for this region. Based on phylogenetic analyses using molecular information from three different genes (COI, 16S and 28S) we conclude that the extant diversity of Tibetan Plateau sphaeriids might have been caused by multiple colonization events. Furthermore, the zoogeographic affinities of Tibetan Plateau sphaeriids are mostly related to the Palearctic. Similar patterns have been observed in previous studies of other freshwater molluscan taxa in the area.
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Vol. 56 • No. 1&2