Extreme levels of intra-specific divergence among Cape Peninsula populations of the Cape galaxias, Galaxias zebratus Castelnau 1861, reveals a possible species complex
The Cape galaxias, Galaxias zebratus, is part of the paleao-endemic fauna characteristic of the south-western Cape, South Africa, and is the only galaxiid found in continental Africa. A 284-bp fragment of the cytochrome b region of the mtDNA was sequenced from 48 individual galaxiids, representing 10 populations from the Cape Peninsula. Five sequences, for four additional populations sampled at the extremes of the species range, were obtained from the literature. Analysis of cyt b mtDNA from these 14 populations of G. zebratus revealed five distinct and highly divergent lineages with low levels of intra-population mtDNA haplotype diversity. A new and distinct genetic lineage is described from the southern part of the Cape Peninsula. Estimates of genetic divergence between populations ranged from <1% to >17%. The observed level of sequence divergence represents the largest yet reported for any single fish species. The distribution of these lineages and their degree of sequence divergence refutes a model of isolation by distance. Results suggest that periods of low sea level may have been important in creating opportunities and alternative routes for dispersal and migration for Cape Peninsula populations.