, Volume 54, Issue 1, pp 1-17

A molecular phylogeny of the groupers of the subfamily Epinephelinae (Serranidae) with a revised classification of the Epinephelini

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Abstract

The phylogenetic relationships among the fishes in the perciform tribe Epinephelini (Serranidae) have long been poorly understood, in large part because of the numerous taxa that must be considered and the large, circumtropical distribution of the group. In this study, genetic data from two nuclear (Tmo-4C4 and histone H3) and two mitochondrial (16S and 12S) genes were gathered from 155 serranid and acanthomorph species as a means of developing a phylogenetic hypothesis using both maximum-likelihood and -parsimony criteria. The maximum-parsimony analysis recovered 675 most parsimonious trees of length 5703 steps (CI = 0.2523, HI = 0.7477, RI = 0.6582), and the maximum-likelihood analysis recovered 1 tree at −lnLikelihood = 28279.58341. These phylogenetic hypotheses are discussed in light of previous morphological evidence to evaluate the evolutionary history of the group and their implications for the currently recognized taxonomy. Our results question the monophyly of the Serranidae, as well as the genera Cephalopholis, Epinephelus, and Mycteroperca as currently defined. The Serranidae is monophyletic only with the exclusion of the genera Acanthistius and Niphon. We propose a revised classification of the tribe Epinephelini that reflects the hypothesized shared ancestry of the group and recognizes 11 genera: Alphestes, Cephalopholis, Dermatolepis, Epinephelus, Gonioplectrus, Hyporthodus (which is resurrected for 11 species of deep-bodied groupers), Mycteroperca (including 7 species heretofore allocated to Epinephelus), Plectropomus, Saloptia, Triso, and Variola.