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Molecular and morphological evidence supports the species status of the Mahachai fighter Betta sp. Mahachai and reveals new species of Betta from Thailand

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Two regions of mitochondrial (mt) DNA, cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (COI) and 16S rRNA, were sequenced in nine species of Betta from Thailand and Indonesia. Most species showed little intraspecific COI variation (adjusted mean = 0·48%) including the putative species Betta sp. Mahachai, but one species (Betta smaragdina) included three lineages showing much greater divergence (7·03–13·48%) that probably represent overlooked species. These findings were confirmed by maximum likelihood analysis and Bayesian inference, which revealed well-supported corresponding monophyletic clades. Based on these results and morphological differences, the putative species Betta sp. Mahachai from central Thailand is a species distinct from other members of the B. splendens group and represents a new and hitherto undescribed species. Furthermore, this study also demonstrated the probable existence of two overlooked Betta species found in the Khorat plateau basin, illustrating the utility of mitochondrial genetic markers in the revelation of overlooked diversity.
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Keywords: 16S rRNA; Betta smaragdina var; Betta sp. Mahachai; Betta splendens complex; DNA barcoding; cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Innovative Learning, Mahidol University, 999 Phuttamonthon 4 Road, Salaya, Nakhon Pathom 73170, Thailand 2: Canadian Centre for DNA Barcoding, Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Road E, Guelph, Ontario, N1G2W1 Canada

Publication date: 2010-08-01

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