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Sea-level changes, river capture and the evolution of populations of the Eastern Cape and fiery redfins (Pseudobarbus afer and Pseudobarbus phlegethon, Cyprinidae) across multiple river systems in South Africa

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Abstract Aim 

The phylogeography of the two closely related species Pseudobarbus afer and Pseudobarbus phlegethon was investigated to assess the association of evolutionary processes, inferred from mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence variation, with hypothetical palaeoriver systems and other climatic and landscape changes. Location 

One western and several southern river systems in South Africa. Methods 

We sampled known populations and confirmed known distribution gaps. This was followed by an assessment of mtDNA control region sequence variation for 31 localities across 17 river systems across the range of the species complex. A map of possible offshore drainage patterns during the last major regression event was constructed based on bathymetry and geological studies. Results 

The genetic distinction of four major lineages of P. afer strongly correspond with proposed palaeoriver systems. However, a western ‘Forest’ lineage, is widespread across two such proposed systems and is closely related to P. phlegethon on the west coast of South Africa. Both the ‘Krom’ and ‘St Francis’ lineages were identified in the single palaeoriver system proposed for St Francis Bay. A fourth ‘Mandela’ lineage is restricted to the one or two palaeoriver systems proposed for Nelson Mandela Bay. Four minor lineages were identified within the Forest lineage and two within the Mandela lineage. Main conclusions 

The close relationship between P. phlegethon and the Forest lineage of P. afer can only be explained by a series of river captures. We suggest the Gourits River system as a historical link that could account for this relationship. On the south coast, lower sea levels than at present allowed confluence between currently isolated river systems, offering opportunities for dispersal among these populations. At present, isolation between different river systems rather than dispersal appears to have a dominant influence on mtDNA diversity.

Keywords: Evolutionary processes; South Africa; isolation; last glacial maximum; migration; palaeorivers; phylogeography; population history

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, Private Bag 1015, Grahamstown, 6140, South Africa 2: Molecular Ecology and Evolution Programme, Department of Genetics, University of Pretoria, 0002, South Africa

Publication date: December 1, 2007


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