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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2003 Apr;27(1):143-55.

Endemic diversification of the monophyletic cottoid fish species flock in Lake Baikal explored with mtDNA sequencing.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Systematics, University of Helsinki, PO Box 65, Helsinki FIN-00014, Finland.


In the ancient Lake Baikal in East Siberia, cottoid fishes have diversified into an endemic flock of 33 species. From an ancestral shallow-water, benthic life-style, Baikalian cottoids have shifted to deep-water life in environments even below 1500 m, and also colonized the pelagic habitat. We examined phylogenetic relationships among 22 Baikalian and 10 extra-Baikalian cottoid taxa using a total of 2822 bp of mitochondrial DNA sequence, from complete sequences of ATPase 8 and 6 and cytochrome b genes and the control region. Unlike in earlier studies, we found strong support for a monophyly of the whole endemic Baikalian cottoid diversity. The Baikalian clade, currently assigned to three families and 12 genera, appears to be nested within the Holarctic freshwater genus Cottus. In the molecular phylogeny, all but one of the current Baikalian genera formed well-supported monophyletic groups. However, the topology was inconsistent with the present morphology-based familial subdivision; particularly in positioning the genus Batrachocottus of Cottidae within Abyssocottidae. The branching order of the Baikalian genera could not be resolved completely, however; short basal branches indicate rapid diversification early in the history of the species flock. Using synonymous divergence rates from other fish species for calibration, the diversification of the Baikalian cottoids seems to have started in the Pliocene or early Pleistocene.

Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science (USA)

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