Research Article
Research Article
Species limits and phylogeography of Newportia (Scolopendromorpha) and implications for widespread morphospecies
expand article infoGregory D. Edgecombe, Varpu Vahtera§, Gonzalo Giribet|, Pipsa Kaunisto
‡ Natural History Museum, London, United Kingdom
§ Zoological Museum, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
| Harvard University, Cambridge, United States of America
¶ University of Turku, Turku, Finland
Open Access


The genus Newportia Gervais, 1847, includes some 60 nominal species distributed in the Caribbean islands and from Mexico to central South America. Modern keys to species and subspecies are available, greatly facilitating identification, but some species are based on few specimens and have incomplete documentation of taxonomically-informative characters. In order to explore genetic variability and evolutionary relationships within geographically-widespread morphospecies, specimens of N. (N.) stolli (Pocock, 1896) and N. (N.) divergens Chamberlin, 1922, two nominal species distinguished principally by differences in suture patterns on T1, were sequenced for mitochondrial 16S rRNA and cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) genes from populations in southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Brazil. N. (N.) stolli is paraphyletic with respect to N. (N.) divergens within a clade from Guatemala, Honduras, and Chiapas (Mexico), most trees being consistent with a single loss of a connection between the anterior transverse suture on T1, whereas specimens of “N. (N.) stolli” from Brazil are not closely allied to those from the Mesomerican type area. The widespread morphospecies N. (N.) monticola Pocock, 1890, was sequenced for the same loci from populations in Costa Rica, Colombia and Brazil, finding that specimens from these areas do not unite as a monophyletic group. Samples of N. (N.) oreina Chamberlin, 1915, from different regions of Mexico form geographic clusters that resolve as each other’s closest relatives. These results suggest that some widespread species of Newportia may be taxa of convenience more so than natural groupings. In several cases geographic proximity fits the phylogeny better than taxonomy, suggesting that non-monophyletic species do not result from use of inappropriate molecular markers. Molecular identification is possible for specimens missing taxonomically informative morphological characters, notably damaged specimens that lack the ultimate leg pair, a protocol that may also apply to other taxonomically difficult genera that are prone to damage (such as Cryptops).


Scolopocryptopidae , Newportiinae , Neotropics, phylogeny


Newportia Gervais, 1847 is a species-rich Neotropical genus that belongs to the family Scolopocryptopidae, encompassing blind Scolopendromorpha with 23 leg-bearing segments, pectinate second maxillary claws, and kinked and pineapple-shaped processes in the gizzard (Shelley and Mercurio 2005; Koch et al. 2009, 2010). Newportia has until recently been classified as one of two genera in the subfamily Newportiinae, distinguished from Tidops Chamberlin, 1915, by different forcipular structures (Chagas-Júnior 2011). Phylogenetic analyses based on multi-locus molecular sequence data have, however, indicated that Tidops nests within Newportia rather than being the sister group, as does another clade that had been assigned to a separate subfamily, the Mesoamerican Ectonocryptopinae (Vahtera et al. 2013).

The geographic distribution of Newportia (including Tidops, Ectonocryptops Crabill, 1977, and Ectonocryptoides Shelley & Mercurio, 2005 as subgenera: Vahtera et al. 2013) extends from northern Mexico throughout Central America and the Caribbean islands to Paraguay. Most species of Newportia have tarsus 2 of the ultimate leg divided into five to nearly 40 tarsomeres, or with indistinct separation of tarsi 1 and 2. Currently some 60 nominal species or subspecies are recognised (Minelli et al. 2006 and onwards; Schileyko 2013). In many species, diagnostic features involve the spinose processes on the ultimate prefemora and femora and the number of tarsomeres, all inconvenient characters because individuals frequently lose these legs when collected.

We propose a solution to the taxonomic impediment of missing ultimate legs by using mitochondrial sequence data to supplement identifications. We also explore phylogeographic patterns within and between select species of Newportia from Mexico and Central America using parsimony and maximum likelihood methods. The resultant phylogenies allow the taxonomic value of purportedly diagnostic morphological characters to be evaluated and for the limits of morphospecies to be tested.


Thirty-four specimens of Newportia from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica were sorted mostly from collections made by the LLAMA (Leaf Litter Survey of Mesoamerica) project, deposited in the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ), Harvard University, Cambridge Massachusetts, USA and accessible through the dedicated data base MCZbase ( All tissues were fixed in absolute ethanol and thus were amendable to DNA sequencing.

Identifications were made using the most recent key for N. (Newportia) (Schileyko, 2013), supplemented with taxonomic descriptions in modern literature (Schileyko and Minelli 1998; Chagas-Júnior and Shelley 2003), standard monographs (Attems 1930), original descriptions, and examination of type material designated by R. I. Pocock in The Natural History Museum (London) and or by R. V. Chamberlin in the MCZ.

LLAMA specimens keyed to either N. (N.) monticola Pocock, 1890, N. (N.) stolli (Pocock, 1896), N. (N.) oreina Chamberlin, 1915, or N. (N.) divergens Chamberlin, 1922. All LLAMA specimens were sequenced for two mitochondrial loci: 16S rRNA and cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI). These loci were selected because they vary both within and between species, and even between individuals from geographically close populations. The 34 LLAMA samples were supplemented with N. (Newportia) and N. (Ectonocryptoides) sequences from our previous work (Vahtera et al. 2013), nine new Newportia specimens from five localities in Amazonas and Roraima, Brazil, and novel sequences for an individual of N. (N.) pusilla Pocock, 1893, from Ecuador (see Table 1 for morphospecies determinations and locality data).

Table 1.

Specimens sequenced in this study and their GenBank accession numbers. Institutional abbreviation: MCZ, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University. Bold font indicates new sequence data.

Species Voucher ID number Lab code Voucher Country (State) 16S COI Lat. (degrees) Long. (degrees)
Newportia adisi 130770 - MCZ Brazil (Amazonas) KF676465 KF676506 2.93355S 59.96611W
N. (Ectonocryptoides) quadrimeropus 130826 - MCZ Mexico (Jalisco) HQ402494 HQ402546 - -
N. collaris 18827 95a MCZ Brazil (Roraima) KP099547 KP099504 0.99185N 62.15915W
N. divergens 98078 72 MCZ Honduras KP099524 KP099481 14.45748N 89.06819W
N. divergens 99129 75 MCZ Honduras KP099525 KP099482 14.45603N 89.06904W
N. divergens 98978 81 MCZ Honduras KP099526 KP099483 15.69449N 86.86339W
N. divergens 99154 82 MCZ Honduras KP099527 KP099484 14.48139N 87.53225W
N. divergens 88191 85 MCZ Guatemala KP099528 KP099485 14.5357724N 90.69427782W
N. divergens 89343 101 MCZ Guatemala KP099529 KP099486 14.94704N 89.27627W
N. divergens 89474 105 MCZ Guatemala KP099530 KP099487 14.53256659N 90.15252622W
N. ernsti ernsti 18828 94 MCZ Brazil (Roraima) KP099522 KP099479 1.01113S 62.11409W
N. ernsti ernsti 105917 - MCZ Dominican Republic JX422692 JX422669 - -
N. longitarsis stechowi 130774 LP2871 AMNH French Guiana JX422693 JX422670 4.506277N 52.058305W
N. monticola 130778 - MCZ Colombia JX422694 JX422671 5.7095080242N 73.4601469617W
N. monticola 80065 40 MCZ Costa Rica KP099531 KP099488 8.40667N 83.32833W
N. monticola 80743 49 MCZ Costa Rica KP099532 KP099489 8.78658N 82.95987W
N. monticola 81355 55 MCZ Costa Rica KP099533 KP099490 8.94997N 82.83375W
N. monticola 21666 91 MCZ Brazil (Roraima) KP099534 KP099491 1.01113S 62.11409W
N. oreina 94265 57 MCZ Mexico (Tamaulipas) KP099535 KP099492 23.0344N 99.18697W
N. oreina 94726 58 MCZ Mexico (Oaxaca) KP099536 KP099493 17.89844N 96.36253W
N. oreina 94185 59 MCZ Mexico (Tamaulipas) KP099537 KP099494 23.0233N 99.2883W
N. oreina 93765 60 MCZ Mexico (Tamaulipas) KP099538 KP099495 23.0611N 99.21564W
N. oreina 93666 62 MCZ Mexico (Tamaulipas) KP099539 KP099496 23.00835N 99.28511W
N. oreina 95181 66 MCZ Mexico (Oaxaca) KP099541 KP099500 17.65934N 96.33426W
N. oreina 93981 68 MCZ Mexico (Oaxaca) KP099540 KP099497 17.89844N 96.36253W
N. pusilla 18758 86 MCZ Ecuador KP099542 KP099498 0.6083333S 77.8825W
N. pusilla 18824 90 MCZ Brazil (Amazonas) KP099543 KP099499 2.93349S 59.96895W
N. sp. 81282 54 MCZ Costa Rica KP099544 KP099501 8.94997N 82.83375W
N. sp. 18822 89b MCZ Brazil (Roraima) KP099545 KP099502 0.99539S 62.15904W
N. sp. 18825 92 MCZ Brazil (Roraima) KP099546 KP099503 1.02897S 62.08722W
N. stolli 106516 37 MCZ Guatemala KP099510 KP099467 14.91852N 91.10458W
N. stolli 81361 42 MCZ Guatemala KP099511 KP099468 15.1144N 89.68046667W
N. stolli 81360 44 MCZ Mexico (Chiapas) KP099505 KP099462 16.13853333N 90.90146667W
N. stolli 79982 47 MCZ Mexico (Chiapas) KP099506 KP099463 16.96385N 91.59313W
N. stolli 80143 48 MCZ Guatemala KP099512 KP099469 15.0583333N 89.676667W
N. stolli 80175 50 MCZ Mexico (Chiapas) KP099507 KP099464 17.17536N 93.14939W
N. stolli 81363 52 MCZ Mexico (Chiapas) KP099508 KP099465 16.97416667N 91.58591667W
N. stolli 80208 53 MCZ Mexico (Chiapas) KP099509 KP099466 16.75181N 92.68267W
N. stolli 99225 71 MCZ Guatemala KP099514 KP099471 15.08405N 89.94991W
N. stolli 99279 78 MCZ Guatemala KP099513 KP099472 15.07708N 89.94795W
N. stolli 18826 88a MCZ Brazil (Roraima) KP099520 KP099477 1.02897S 62.08722W
N. stolli 18830 93a MCZ Brazil (Roraima) KP099521 KP099478 1.01113S 62.11409W
N. stolli 18827 95b MCZ Brazil (Roraima) KP099523 KP099480 0.99185N 62.15915W
N. stolli 89566 99 MCZ Guatemala KP099515 KP099470 15.21241135N 90.21480799W
N. stolli 89321 100 MCZ Guatemala KP099516 KP099473 16.44568931N 89.54981728W
N. stolli 89306 102 MCZ Guatemala KP099517 KP099474 17.24033736N 89.62094017W
N. stolli 89355 103 MCZ Guatemala KP099518 KP099475 15.21318939N 90.21921316W
N. stolli 89606 104 MCZ Guatemala KP099519 KP099476 16.44147064N 89.53447W
N. stolli 130787 - MCZ Guatemala KF676467 KF676508 15.0833333N 89.9441666W
Cryptops punicus 130604 - MCZ Italy KF676461 KF676503 40.01471N 9.22261E
Scolopocryptops mexicanus 105626 - MCZ Ecuador JX422703 JX422679 1.336111N 77.263055W

Total DNA was extracted from the legs utilizing the NucleoSpin®Tissue kit (Macherey-Nagel). Samples were incubated overnight. PCR amplifications were performed with illustra TM PuReTaq TM Ready-To-GoTM PCR Beads (GE Healthcare). The COI fragments were amplified using primer pair HCO1490 (Folmer et al. 1994) and HCOout (Carpenter and Wheeler 1999) and the 16S rRNA fragments using primer pair 16Sa/16Sb (Xiong and Kocher 1991; Edgecombe et al. 2002). The normal amplification cycle for COI consisted of an initial denaturation step (2 min at 95 °C), followed by 35 cycles of denaturation (1 min at 95 °C), annealing (1 min at 43 °C) and extension (1.5 min at 72 °C), followed by a final extension step (4 min at 72 °C). For the 16S rRNA fragment the cycle consisted of an initial denaturation step (2 min at 94 °C), followed by 35 cycles of denaturation (30 s at 94 °C), annealing (30 s min at 43 °C) and extension (1 min at 72 °C), followed by a final extension step (7 min at 72 °C). Visualization of the PCR products was done by 1 % agarose electrophoresis using Midori Green Advanced DNA Stain and FastGene® GelPic LED Box (Nippon Genetics, GmbH).

Samples were purified using ExoSAP-IT (Affymetrix) and sent to FIMM (Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland) for sequencing. Chromatograms were visualized and assembled using Sequencer 5.0.1 (Gene Codes Corp., Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA). Sequence alignment editor Se-Al (Rambaut 1996) was used to visualize the sequences simultaneously. GenBank registrations for new sequences are listed in Table 1.

Parsimony analysis was conducted with POY ver. 5.1.1 (Wheeler et al. 2014) run in 16 nodes in the high-performance supercluster Taito at CSC (IT-Center of Science), Finland. A timed search of three hours was first performed on the unaligned data set. The resulting tree was used as the starting tree for the next round in which an additional timed search of six hours was performed. Parameter set 111 (indel/transversion and transversion/transition costs all equal) was used throughout the searches and branch lengths were reported using the newly implemented command “report (“file_name.tre”, trees:(total, branches:true))”. Nodal support was calculated using parsimony jackknifing (Farris et al. 1996).

Additional analyses used a probabilistic approach with the maximum likelihood program RAxML ver. 8.0.22 (Stamatakis 2014). For these, multiple sequence alignments (MSA) were first estimated with MUSCLE ver. 3.6 (Edgar 2004) and then trimmed using Gblocks ver. 0.91b (Castresana 2000; Talavera and Castresana 2007) to remove areas of ambiguous alignment. Since COI sequences showed no length variation, they were not trimmed in Gblocks. The amount of 16S rRNA data that remained after trimming was 59% of the original 585 positions. The two data sets were concatenated using SequenceMatrix (Vaidya et al. 2011) and the concatenated data were analyzed with RAxML in the CIPRES Science Gateway (Miller et al. 2010). A unique general time reversible (GTR) model was specified for each partition independently. Nodal support was estimated using the rapid bootstrap algorithm (applying the Majority Rule Criterion) using the GTR-CAT model (Stamatakis et al. 2008).


The combined analysis of both COI and 16S fragments using parsimony as the optimality criterion resulted in two most parsimonious (MP) trees of length 4625 steps. The strict consensus tree (Fig. 2) shows these two trees are almost identical, differing only in the placement of two Brazilian specimens of N. (N.) stolli in relation to each other. Comparing strongly supported clades, the maximum likelihood tree (lnL -14054.372302: Fig. 3) shows the same major geographic and taxonomic groupings as the parsimony tree. This congruence is noteworthy because the data sets analyzed under these two optimality criteria were different (unaligned in POY and analyzed using the concept of dynamic versus static homologies with some regions removed in RAxML), as are the resampling methods (jackknifing and bootstrapping, respectively). Parts of the trees that are incongruent between the two analyses involve nodes that received low resampling supports in both analyses (e.g., the positions of N. (N.) adisi and Brazilian specimen 89b relative to other species). Both analyses depict substantial branch lengths both within and between species, with only a few instances of no (or minimal) variation between specimens from the same or geographically close populations.

Figure 1. 

Map of Mesoamerica, the Caribbean and northern South America showing geographic distribution of Newportia specimens analyzed herein (see Table 1 for coordinates of samples).

Figure 2. 

Strict consensus of two optimal cladograms for Newportia under parameter set 111 for parsimony (POY) analysis. Abbreviations: BRA, Brazil; COL, Colombia; CR, Costa Rica; DR, Dominican Republic; ECU, Ecuador; FRG, French Guiana; GUA, Guatemala; HON, Honduras; MEX, Mexico.

As in previous analyses based on sparser sampling for Newportia (Vahtera et al. 2013), Tidops (T. collaris) and Ectonocryptoides (E. quadrimeropus) nest within Newportia in all analyses. Specifically, they unite with Newportia (Newportia) spp. that inhabit the same geographic region i.e., N. (T.) collaris from the Brazilian Amazon groups within a clade composed of species of Newportia (Newportia) from there, whereas N. (E.) quadrimeropus from Jalisco, Mexico, groups with the Mexican N. (N.) oreina. These results reinforce proposals to classify Tidops, Ectonocryptoides and presumably allied Ectonocryptops within Newportia and to regard Ectonocryptopinae as subordinate to Newportiinae (Vahtera et al. 2013). The traditional classification of N. (Tidops) and N. (Ectonocryptoides) as separate genera because of their obvious phenotypic differences from N (Newportia) might have predicted that they would be markedly different from N. (Newportia) genetically. However, neither N. (Tidops) collaris nor N. (Ectonocryptoides) quadrimeropus depict long branch divergences from their closest relatives with respect to the studied loci, indeed being shorter than some population-level branches within species.

Newportia oreina consists of two geographical clades and this division is found in both parsimony and likelihood analyses; one clade consists of all specimens from Tamaulipas (JK, BS 100) and the other of ones from Oaxaca (JK 100, BS 98). Interestingly, N. (Ectonocryptoides) quadrimeropus forms a well-supported (JK 99, BS 73) clade with the N. (N.) oreina populations from Oaxaca, rendering N. (N.) oreinaparaphyletic with respect to Ectonocryptoides (and presumably Ectonocryptops). A previous scolopendromorph phylogeny (Vahtera et al. 2013) had also indicated affinity between N. (N.) oreina and N. (Ectonocryptoides) quadrimeropus; analyses based on combined molecular and morphological data resolved them as sister-groups, although only one individual of each was then available. We note that N. oreina possesses a shorter tarsus than most congeners. The phylogeny interprets the ancestral condition of the ultimate leg tarsi of Newportia as being elongate and divided into tarsomeres, with the relatively short tarsus 2 of N. (N.) oreina being a possible precursor to the stout tarsi of the submerged taxon, “Ectonocryptopinae”. This transformation series increases the plausibility of the subclavate “ectonocryptopine” ultimate legs being derived from an ancestor with flagelliform tarsi, a result that was already strongly signaled by molecular phylogenies (Vahtera et al. 2013) and is reinforced by the current trees.

A Mesoamerican clade uniting N. (N.) stolli and N. (N.) divergens from Mexico (Chiapas), Guatemala and Honduras is recovered in both parsimony and likelihood analyses (Figs 2, 3), though resampling methods did not strongly support it (JK <50, BS 57). N. (N.) divergens is resolved as monophyletic in the POY analyses but is nested within a paraphyletic N. (N.) stolli, implying a single loss of the median part of the anterior transverse suture on T1 (Fig. 2). However, there is no jackknife support for the divergens clade. In contrast, the likelihood analysis did not support monophyly of N. (N.) divergens; six individuals from Guatemala and Honduras resolve as a well-supported clade (BS 98), but two others from Honduras (81, 82) are grouped with two Mexican N. (N.) stolli specimens, albeit with weak nodal support.

Figure 3. 

Maximum likelihood tree (lnL = -14054.372302). Abbreviations for countries as in Fig. 2.

Specimens identified as N. (N.) stolli from the Brazilian Amazon do not unite with supposed congeners from Mesoamerica but are instead most closely related to other taxa from the same region, i.e., a specimen identified as N. (N.) monticola (91) and N. (Tidops) collaris. This result implies that N. (N.) stolli is polyphyletic and an indistinct segmentation of ultimate tarsus 2 has multiple (convergent) origins. This character had once served as the basis for recognising a subgenus N. (Scolopendrides), e.g., in the classification of Bücherl (1974), but this taxon is not used in current classifications (Schileyko and Minelli 1998). We re-examined the N. (N.) stolli specimens again in light of the signal for non-monophyly in the phylogenetic analysis, attempting to recognize any morphological character(s) that would separate the specimens from Brazil from those from Mesoamerica. However, we found no distinctive characters between the samples; the specimens appear to be morphologically indistinguishable and using the existing keys they would all be identified as N. (N.) stolli with confidence.

Costa Rican specimens of N. (N.) monticola unite as a monophyletic group (JK 100, BS 99) in both analyses. In the maximum likelihood tree (Fig. 3) a Colombian specimen of N. (N.) monticola (103974) is resolved as a sister taxon to the Costa Rican clade but this relationship is not found in the parsimony tree (Fig. 2). In neither analysis did a Brazilian specimen identified as N. (N.) monticola unite with the other supposed conspecifics.

The two included specimens of N. (N.) pusilla, one from Ecuador (specimen 86) and the other from Brazilian Amazonas (specimen 90), likewise do not form a clade but instead are situated in different parts of the tree. The Brazilian specimen conforms to “Amazonian type pusilla” of Schileyko and Minelli (1998), characterized by rudimentary paramedian sutures on T1 (in contrast to their complete absence in other populations). Both analyses group this Brazilian specimen together with N. (N.) longitarsis stechowi but since there is no strong resampling support in either analysis (JK <50, BS 69), the question about its identity and closest relative remains unclear.

We also included a few Newportia specimens that could not be identified morphologically since they lacked ultimate legs, were juveniles, or did not key out to any known species. A specimen (54) from Costa Rica has a unique character combination and is apparently a distinct species but lacks its ultimate legs. In the POY analysis it groups together, although with weak support, with the Costa Rican N. (N.) monticola clade. A very distinctive Brazilian specimen (89b) with all tarsi bipartite and tarsus 2 of the ultimate leg undivided groups at the base of the Mexican N. (N.) oreina/N. (E.) quadrimeropus clade in the parsimony analysis. However, there is poor resampling support for this grouping and it is instead allied to species with indistinctly segmented ultimate tarsus 2 and the Brazilian clade in the likelihood tree. The poor support values and topological instability under different analytical conditions render the affinities of this undescribed species uncertain.


Some of the specimens used in this study were either of small size because of the collection methods employed (and thus may not have been appropriate for keying using traditional criteria formulated for mature specimens) or were missing their taxonomically-informative ultimate legs. Nonetheless, several such specimens could be identified with a high degree of accuracy because their sequence data placed them within clades whose nomenclature could be established based on standard external morphological characters. An example is provided by a juvenile from Brazil (92) that is in poor condition and cannot be identified to species. However, the analysis shows it to be a juvenile of a Brazilian clade assigned to N. (N.) stolli. This approach is likely to be valuable in other groups of taxonomically-difficult centipedes that rely heavily on characters of the ultimate leg pair but often lack those legs in fixed specimens, such as Cryptops, where the numbers of tibial and tarsal saw teeth are fundamental taxonomic characters. The identification of developmental stages or adults without key taxonomic characters is becoming standard for many groups of animals, including other arthropod groups, such as insects (Monaghan et al. 2009; Gattolliat and Monaghan 2010) and arachnids (Fernández et al. 2014).

Some morphologically delimited species were found to be monophyletic groups, like N. (N.) divergens in the parsimony analysis, but others were paraphyletic or polyphyletic. This could be interpreted as a failure of the taxonomic characters traditionally used to delimit species or a failure in reconstructing an accurate tree by the markers selected. The second option is unlikely for the reasons outlined below, especially the biogeographical patterns exhibited in many clades where “distinct” species from the same regions tend to cluster together and not with their supposed conspecifics from other geographical regions. In particular N. (N.) stolli formed a series of geographic groupings that in part were paraphyletic with respect to sympatric species (specifically, to N. (N.) divergens in Mesoamerica) or in other cases were found to be distantly related (Brazilian “N. (N.) stolli”). The first pattern is consistent with N. (N.) stolli being a grade united by a plesiomorphy (a continuous anterior transverse suture on T1), some parts of which are most closely related to a species defined by an apomorphic state (i.e., loss of the median extent of the anterior transverse suture). The tree topology, however, suggests that the Brazilian specimens identified as N. (N.) stolli are misidentified. Newportia (N.) monticola is likewise a questionable taxon, the monophyletic Costa Rican group never uniting with a specimen of the same putative species from Brazil and only variably so with one from Colombia. Brazilian N. (N.) monticola and N. (N.) stolli unite in a well-supported clade (JF and BS 100), indicating that, in this instance, geography is a better predictor of relationships than taxonomy. It is noteworthy that N. (N.) stolli and N. (N.) monticola are among the most geographically widespread “species” of Newportia, but our results suggest that the wide distribution is partly an artifact of morphologically-based identifications. The same evidently applies to N. (N.) pusilla, a morphospecies that is regarded as ranging from St. Vincent through Colombia to the Brazilian Amazon (Schileyko and Minelli 1998; Chagas-Júnior et al. 2014). Polyphyly of this species in the molecular trees suggests that its diagnostic characters (absent or rudimentary paramedian sutures on T1 and a lack of ventral spinose processes on the ultimate leg femora) evolved convergently in different regions.

Centipede systematics, still strongly influenced by mid 20th Century conceptualisations of species (see Edgecombe 2007), primarily assumes polymorphic and geographically widespread entities. The existing concepts that N. (N.) monticola and N. (N.) stolli are widespread throughout much of Central and South America exemplify where morphospecies do not appear to correspond to clades but rather are classes defined by combinations of characters. In these instances, molecular tools may prove to be invaluable for species delimitations, and novel morphological characters will need to be identified to rediagnose polyphyletic species.


Most samples were collected from the LLAMA (Leaf Litter Survey of Mesoamerica) survey, a collecting program supported by NSF grant DEB-0640015 to John Longino. Laboratory expenses were covered by a grant from the Finnish Entomological Society. Funding for GG’s fieldwork in Brazil was provided by the National Geographic Society to the Amazon (2012), and by US National Science Foundation grant #1144417 (Collaborative Research: ARTS: Taxonomy and systematics of selected Neotropical clades of arachnids) to GG and G. Hormiga. We thank the University of Turku for supporting GDE’s visit in January 2014, and CSC – IT Center for Science Ltd. for the allocation of computational resources. Emil Vahtera and Kari Kaunisto assisted with figures. Input from Arkady Schileyko and Rowland Shelley as referees improved the manuscript.


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