To evaluate the current delimitation of broadly distributed morphospecies from the Lecanora dispersa group, the nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacer region (ITS1, 5.8S and ITS2) was analyzed phylogenetically and compared to phenotypic data variation within and among species. Phylogenetic relationships among 34 individuals representing eight species from the L. dispersa group, collected mainly from Poland and other European countries, were inferred using two types of Bayesian analyses (with and without a priori alignments), maximum likelihood and maximum parsimony approaches. The highest phylogenetic resolution and the largest number of significantly supported internodes resulted from the Bayesian analysis without a priori alignment. Inferred phylogenies confirmed a broader delimitation of the L. dispersa group, to include four additional lobate taxa: L. contractula, L. pruinosa, L. reuteri, and L. thuleana ( = Arctopeltis thuleana). Lecanora crenulata, L. dispersa, L. reuterii, and the core of L. albescens and L. semipallida were all found to be monophyletic with high support (by at least one phylogenetic analysis) except the first species. Based on the ITS region, phenotypically similar individuals, thought to belong to one monophyletic group, were found to belong to multiple distantly related groups (e.g., members of L. albescens and L. hagenii), suggesting that morphological, anatomical and chemical characters may not be consistent in predicting species boundaries within the L. dispersa group. Potential undescribed species were found within phenotypically defined L. albescens and L. semipallida. Phylo-taxonomic studies of the L. dispersa group with more loci and a more extensive taxon sampling are urgently needed.
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