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Proc Biol Sci. 2002 Mar 22;269(1491):599-605.

Species boundaries, populations and colour morphs in the coral reef three-spot damselfish (Dascyllus trimaculatus) species complex.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA.


Coloration patterns of tropical reef fishes is commonly used for taxonomic purposes, yet few studies have focused on the relationship between species boundaries and coloration types. The three-spot damselfish (Dascyllus trimaculatus) species complex comprises four species that vary both in geographical ranges and colour patterns making them an ideal model to study these relationships. We analysed the mitochondrial control region of 122 individuals from all four species collected from 13 localities. Individuals from two species (Dascyllus albisella and D. strasburgi) grouped into monophyletic clades, while the two other species (D. trimaculatus and D. auripinnis) were found to be paraphyletic. Coloration patterns were therefore not found to be good predictors of genetic isolation. In contrast, geographical origin was always consistent with the observed genetic pattern.

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