Mitochondrial DNA Phylogeny of the Family Cichlidae: Monophyly and Fast Molecular Evolution of the Neotropical Assemblage
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A mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) phylogeny of cichlid fish is presented for the most taxonomically inclusive data set compiled to date (64 taxa). 16S rDNA data establish with confidence relationships among major lineages of cichlids, with a general pattern congruent with previous morphological studies and less inclusive molecular phylogenies based on nuclear genes. Cichlids from Madagascar and India are the most basal groups of the family Cichlidae and sister to African–Neotropical cichlids. The cichlid phylogeny suggests drift-vicariance events, consistent with the fragmentation of Gondwana, to explain current biogeographic distributions. Important phylogenetic findings include the placement of the controversial genus Heterochromis basal among African cichlids, the South American genus Retroculus as the most basal taxon of the Neotropical cichlid assemblage, and the close relationship of the Neotropical genera Cichla with Astronotus rather than with the crenicichlines. Based on a large number of South American genera, the Neotropical cichlids are defined as a monophyletic assemblage and shown to harbor significantly higher levels of genetic variation than their African counterparts. Relative rate tests suggest that Neotropical cichlids have experienced accelerated rates of molecular evolution. But these high evolutionary rates were significantly higher among geophagine cichlids.
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