Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Cryptic species discovery

Do understudied animals contain hidden species?

Ben Wielstra

Part of the work conducted in the Wielstra lab involves diagnosing and describing overlooked species. Cryptic species are distinct species that previously went unrecognized due to their morphological similarity. Yet, cryptic species can be picked out by studying genetic data. In fact, once such genetically distinct species have been defined, it is often possible to go back to study their morphology and find ways to tell them apart based on their phenotype. Several newts have recently become recognized as distinct species based on Wielstra’s work.


  • van Riemsdijk, I., Arntzen, J.W., Bogaerts, S., Franzen, M., Litvinchuk, S.N., Olgun, K., Wielstra, B. (2017). The Near East as a cradle of biodiversity: a phylogeography of banded newts (genus Ommatotriton) reveals extensive inter- and intraspecific genetic differentiation. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 114: 73-81.
  • Wielstra, B., Arntzen, J.W. (2016). Description of a new species of crested newt, previously subsumed in Triturus ivanbureschi (Amphibia: Caudata: Salamandridae). Zootaxa 4109(1): 73-80.
  • Wielstra, B., Baird, A.B., Arntzen, J.W. (2013). A multimarker phylogeography of crested newts (Triturus cristatus superspecies) reveals cryptic species. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 67(1): 167-175.
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