Marine Biology

, Volume 148, Issue 2, pp 405–414 | Cite as

Evolutionary divergence among lineages of the ocean sunfish family, Molidae (Tetraodontiformes)

  • Anna L. Bass
  • Heidi Dewar
  • Tierney Thys
  • J. Todd. Streelman
  • Stephen A. KarlEmail author
Research Article


Ocean sunfish, family Molidae, are enigmatic members of the epipelagic fauna of all tropical and temperate oceans. A study, begun in 1998, initially focused on the population genetics of Mola mola Linnaeus 1758 immediately indicated high levels of genetic divergence in the d-loop and cytochrome b mitochondrial genes. This preliminary effort was expanded to include Masturus lanceolatus Liénard 1840, Ranzania laevis Pennant 1776, and representative sequences of other Tetraodontiformes. Analysis of the sequence data confirms that there are two species in the genus Mola, Mola mola and M. ramsayi Giglioli 1883, with the latter presumed to be limited to the southern hemisphere. There is an indication of inter-ocean subdivision within both species originating 0.05–0.32 and 1.55–4.10 million years ago, respectively. Given limited sample sizes, however, the divergence estimates are minimums and the isolating mechanisms remain speculative. The systematic analysis provided strong support for the sister taxa relationship between genera Masturus and Mola and the basal position of the genus Ranzania within the family, as well as the sister group relationship of the Tetraodontiform families Tetraodontidae + Diodontidae to the Molidae.


Southern Hemisphere Ocean Basin Akaike Information Criterion Complete Mitochondrial Genome Ocean Sunfish 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank the major contributors to this study including those who collected tissue samples: D. Adams, C. Bartels, L. Benson, C. Brown, D. Christie, M. Farquhar, G. Farwell, P. Garratt, L. Greene, R. Horn, S. Huang, R. Lord, M. de Maine, A. Mariot, M. McGrouther, J. Seeto, M. S. Shie, I. Smith, G. Swinney, M. Tringali, J. Wissema, H. Y. Young and the staff from Kamogawa Sea World, Two Oceans Aquarium, Taiwan Fisheries Research Institute, and Capricorn Fisheries. Thank you to A. Castro, C. Curtis, K. Hayes, C. Puchulutegui and T. Schwartz who provided both lab and data analysis assistance. P. Motta and J. Tyler provided hard-to-find references. J. Grassle and two anonymous reviewers provided many helpful comments on the text. All experiments complied with current laws of the country from which samples were collected and were approved under USF IACUC permit number 1972. This research was supported by grants from The National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Science Foundation Women’s International Science Collaboration Program, Smithsonian Institution, Arcadia Wildlife Preserve Inc., and National Science Foundation grants DEB 9806905 and DEB 0321924.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna L. Bass
    • 1
  • Heidi Dewar
    • 2
  • Tierney Thys
    • 3
  • J. Todd. Streelman
    • 4
  • Stephen A. Karl
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Biology, SCA 110University of South FloridaTampaUSA
  2. 2.Tagging of Pacific PelagicsStanford University c/o Inter-American Tropical Tuna CommissionLa JollaUSA
  3. 3.Sea Studios FoundationMontereyUSA
  4. 4.School of BiologyThe Georgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  5. 5.The Hawai’i Institute of Marine BiologyUniversity of Hawai’iKane’oheUSA

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