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J Morphol. 2009 Apr;270(4):469-84. doi: 10.1002/jmor.10702.

Geographic variation in otolith morphology among freshwater populations of Aphanius dispar (Teleostei, Cyprinodontiformes) from the southeastern Arabian Peninsula.

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  • 1Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Section Palaeontology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Munich, Germany.


Aphanius Nardo is a large genus of teleost fishes in the Old World, with 19 described species. Several of these species have only recently been recognized and additional species can be expected from isolated populations in remote areas. We show here that otolith morphology and statistical analyses of otolith variables can contribute to the detection of genetic differentiation in Aphanius. We studied samples of eight Aphanius dispar populations from the southeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula. Two populations originate from freshwater habitats far inland and probably have been isolated since the late Holocene some 4,000 years ago, three populations come from freshwater habitats with occasional connections to the sea, one population originates from a coastal site, and two were artificially introduced populations. The coastal population is interpreted as possessing the basic otolith type of A. dispar. The basic otolith type also occurs in fishes from the freshwater habitat which is located closest to the coast. Otoliths from the two other freshwater populations with occasional connections to the coast differ slightly from the basic type. However, the two populations from the long-term isolated freshwater habitats far inland show distinct morphological changes. Our results are consistent with the hypotheses that i) otolith morphology is primarily genetically determined and is little influenced by physical parameters of the habitat, and ii) isolated A. dispar populations may be capable of evolving into new species within short periods of time.

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