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A morphological and genetic analysis of the European bitterling species complex

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Bitterling fishes lay their eggs on the gills of living freshwater mussels and are valuable models in behavioural and evolutionary ecology. We used morphological and genetic data to resolve the taxonomic relationships of bitterling in Europe. Previous studies have suggested the European bitterling is either a single species with a wide but discontinuous geographic distribution, or a complex of species. Morphometric and meristic data identified differences between three putative species; with a clear distinction between the eastern Asian Rhodeus sericeus, western European bitterling Rhodeus amarus, and colchian bitterling, Rhodeus colchicus. Polymorphism in the mitochondrial DNA control region was predominantly due to insertion/deletion events, making phylogenetic inference difficult, but the single haplotype found in R. sericeus populations was detected at low frequency (one of 24 individuals) in R. amarus and R. colchicus populations. Eight control region haplotypes were found in R. amarus populations, which were distinct from the two haplotypes in a R. colchicus population. Cytochrome b data produced a phylogeny with strongly-supported differentiation between a clade of two R. sericeus haplotypes and a clade of six R. amarus/colchicus haplotypes. The star-like topology of the R. amarus/colchicus haplotypes in a minimum spanning network suggested a rapid radiation in this clade. Our results are consistent with an hypothesis of relatively ancient divergence of R. sericeus from R. amarus/colchicus and more recent and rapid differentiation between R. amarus and R. colchicus. © 2008 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2008, 95, 337–347.

Keywords: Cyprinidae; behaviour; morphology; phylogeny; speciation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent's Park, London, NW1 7RY, UK 2: Institute of Vertebrate Biology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Brno 60365, Czech Republic 3: Department of Ecology & Vertebrate Zoology, University of Łódź, Łódź 90-237, Poland

Publication date: October 1, 2008


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