Cryptic species can present a significant challenge to the application of systematic and biogeographic principles, especially if they are invasive or transmit parasites or pathogens. Detecting cryptic species requires a pluralistic approach in which molecular markers facilitate the detection of coherent taxonomic units that can then be analyzed using various traits (e.g., internal morphology) and crosses. In asexual or self-fertilizing species, the latter criteria are of limited use. We studied a group of cryptic freshwater snails (genus Galba) from the family Lymnaeidae that have invaded almost all continents, reproducing mainly by self-fertilization and transmitting liver flukes to humans and livestock. We aim to clarify the systematics, distribution, and phylogeny of these species with an integrative approach that includes morphology, molecular markers, wide-scale sampling across America, and data retrieved from GenBank (to include Old World samples). Our phylogenetic analysis suggests that the genus Galba originated ca. 22 Myr ago and today comprises six species or species complexes. Four of them show an elongated-shell cryptic phenotype and exhibit wide variation in their genetic diversity, geographic distribution, and invasiveness. The remaining two species have more geographically restricted distributions and exhibit a globose-shell cryptic phenotype, most likely phylogenetically derived from the elongated one. We emphasize that no Galba species should be identified without molecular markers. We also discuss several hypotheses that can explain the origin of cryptic species in Galba, such as convergence and morphological stasis.
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