Marine Biology

, Volume 156, Issue 4, pp 725–739 | Cite as

Phylogenetic relationships of coral-associated gobies (Teleostei, Gobiidae) from the Red Sea based on mitochondrial DNA data

  • Jürgen HerlerEmail author
  • Stephan Koblmüller
  • Christian Sturmbauer
Original Paper


Bryaninops, Gobiodon, Paragobiodon and Pleurosicya are the most abundant genera of coral-associated gobies. These genera are adapted to live among coral, while other small reef gobies (e.g., the genus Eviota) show no obligate association with this living substrate. Thirteen coral-associated species and two Eviota species were sampled from different regions of the Red Sea, along with four populations/species of Gobiodon from the Indian and western Pacific Oceans. A molecular phylogenetic analysis was performed using partial sequences of 12S rRNA, 16S rRNA and cytochrome b mitochondrial genes, 1,199 base pairs in total. Several clades were consistently resolved in neighbor joining-, maximum parsimony-, maximum likelihood and Bayesian analyses. While each of the four genera Gobiodon, Paragobiodon, Bryaninops and Pleurosicya proved to be monophyletic, their relative position in the phylogeny did not support an emergence of coral-associated gobiids as a monophyletic assemblage. Instead, two separate monophyletic sub-groups were discovered, the first comprising Gobiodon and Paragobiodon, and the second Bryaninops and Pleurosicya. Our molecular phylogenetic examinations also revealed one unassigned species of Gobiodon from the Maldives as a distinct species and confirmed three putative and yet unassigned species from the Red Sea. Moreover, the uniformly black colored species of Gobiodon are not monophyletic but have evolved independently within two distinct species groups. Genetic distances were large in particular within Pleurosicya and Eviota. Estimated divergence times suggest that coral-associated gobies have diversified in parallel to their preferred host corals. In particular, divergence times of Gobiodon species closely match those estimated for their typical host coral genus Acropora.


Reef Fish Sister Species Coral Host Conspecific Population Hierarchical Likelihood Ratio Test 



We thank Moustafa Fouda (NSC/EEAA, Egypt), Ayman Mabrouk (MRPA Nabq, Egypt) and Abdulla Naseer (Ministry of Fisheries, Agriculture and Marine Resources of the Maldives) for research and sampling permission. Jürgen Herler is grateful to Helge Hilgers (University of Vienna) for providing work space and to Heike Stürmer and Andy Tischer (D.A.E.D., Egypt) for field laboratories and diving support. Philip Munday provided samples of G. ceramensis from the Great Barrier Reef. Alain Jeudy de Grissac gave J. H. the opportunity for sampling trips in Eritrea (southern Red Sea). Markus Dirnwöber assisted in collecting some of the samples and Wolfgang and Karen Loch organized the expedition to the Maldives, during which Indian Ocean samples were obtained. We also thank Philip Munday, Richard Winterbottom, Helen Larson, Antony Harold and Douglas Hoese for various discussions on gobiid identity and taxonomy, two anonymous reviewers for useful comments and Michael Stachowitsch for linguistic corrections. This study was financially supported by an APART-grant (Austrian Programme for Advanced Research and Technology) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences to J. H. and by the Austrian Science Foundation (Grant 17680) to C.S.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jürgen Herler
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stephan Koblmüller
    • 2
  • Christian Sturmbauer
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Theoretical Biology, Faculty of Life SciencesUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  2. 2.Department of Evolutionary Biology, Evolutionary Biology Centre (EBC)Uppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  3. 3.Department of ZoologyKarl-Franzens-University GrazGrazAustria

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