Acoel flatworms are simple bilaterians that lack digestive lumens and coelomic cavities. Although they are a significant taxon for evaluating the evolution of metazoans, suitable species for biological experiments are not available in Japan. We recently focused on Praesagittifera naikaiensis, which inhabits the sandy shores of intertidal zones in the Seto Inland Sea in Japan, as a candidate for a representative acoel species to be used in experiments. However, reports on its distribution range remain limited. Here, we surveyed the habitats of P. naikaiensis on 108 beaches along the Seto Inland Sea. Praesagittifera naikaiensis is reported here from 37 sites (six previously known and 31 newly discovered sites) spread over a wide area of the Seto Inland Sea, from Awaji Island in Hyogo Prefecture to Fukuoka Prefecture (364 km direct distance). Based on the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) gene haplotypes, we evaluated the genetic diversity of 145 individuals collected from 33 sites. Out of 42 COI haplotypes, 13 haplotypes were shared by multiple individuals. The most frequent haplotype was observed in 67 individuals collected from 31 sites. Eight other haplotypes were detected at geographically distant locations (maximum of 299 km direct distance). Multiple haplotypes were found at 32 sites. These results demonstrate that sufficient genetic flow exists among P. naikaiensis populations throughout the Seto Inland Sea. Molecular phylogenetic analysis of the COI haplotypes of P. naikaiensis revealed that all specimens were grouped into one clade. The genetic homogeneity of the animals in this area favors their use as an experimental animal.
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Vol. 37 • No. 4