Phylogeny and speciation of the eastern Asian cyprinid genus Sarcocheilichthys
The genus Sarcocheilichthys is a group of small cyprinid fishes comprising 10 species/sub-species widely distributed in East Asia, which represents a valuable model for understanding the speciation of freshwater fishes in East Asia. In the present study, the molecular phylogenetic relationship of the genus Sarcocheilichthys was investigated using a 1140 bp section of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene. Two different tree-building methods, maximum parsimony (MP) and Bayesian methods, yielded trees with almost the same topology, yielding high bootstrap values or posterior probabilities. The results showed that the genus Sarcocheilichthys consists of two large clades, clades I and II. Clade I contains Sarcocheilichthys lacustris, Sarcocheilichthys sinensis and Sarcocheilichthys parvus, with S. parvus at a basal position. In clade II, Sarcocheilichthys variegatus microoculus is at a basal position; samples of the widespread species, Sarcocheilichthys nigripinnis, form a large subclade containing another valid species Sarcocheilichthys czerskii. Sarcocheilichthys kiangsiensis is retained at an intermediate position. Since S. czerskii is a valid species in the S. nigripinnis clade, remaining samples of S. nigripinnis form a paraphyly. This speciation process is attributed to geographical isolation and special environmental conditions experienced by S. czerskii and stable environments experienced by the other S. nigripinnis populations. This type of speciation process was suggested to be very common. Samples of Sarcocheilichthys sinensis sinensis and Sarcocheilichthys sinensis fukiensis that did not form their own monophyletic groups suggest an early stage of speciation and support their sub-species status. Molecular clock analysis indicates that the two major lineages of the genus Sarcocheilichthys, clades I and II diverged c. 8·89 million years ago (mya). Sarcocheilichthys v. microoculus from Japan probably diverged 4·78 mya from the Chinese group. The northern–southern clades of S. nigripinnis began to diverge c. 2·12 mya, while one lineage of S. nigripinnis evolved into a new species, S. czerski, c. 0·34 mya.
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