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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2004 Nov;33(2):469-81.

Phylogeography of surface and cave Astyanax (Teleostei) from Central and North America based on cytochrome b sequence data.

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Zoological Institute and Zoological Museum, University of Hamburg, Martin-Luther-King-Platz 3, 20146 Hamburg, Germany.


Astyanax fasciatus has become a model organism for the study of regressive and adaptive evolution in cave animals. To fully understand these processes, it is important to have background information on the systematics and phylogeography of surface and cave populations of this species. Here we investigate the phylogeography of A. fasciatus in North and Central America and also the historical biogeography of this region. Phylogenetic analysis of part of the mtDNA cytochrome b gene from 26 surface and nine cave A. fasciatus populations revealed seven major clades, which, in principle, represent geographical patterns of distribution. However, the four strongly eye and pigment reduced cave populations, Piedras, Sabinos, Tinaja, and Curva, form a separate cluster, which is not sister group to the surface populations from the same locality. Similarly the Belizean populations do not cluster with their geographic neighbors from the Yucatan. The analyses indicate that there have been recurrent invasions of surface Astyanax from the south, that were most likely influenced by major climate changes during the Pleistocene. During this period, ancestors of the strongly eye and pigment reduced cave populations were able to survive underground as thermophilic relics when the surface populations became extinct. The high level of genetic divergence among the different clades shows that differing haplotype lineages must have reinvaded the surface waters from the south and/or back-colonized them from residual habitats and also penetrated into the caves. Nested clade analyses show that recurrent gene flow as well as historic processes like past fragmentation and range expansion have influenced current populations of A. fasciatus in Central and North America. Different haplotype clades of the phylogeny are not compatible with the present taxonomy of Astyanax and, therefore, we propose the application of a single systematic unit, called A. fasciatus.

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