Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 100, Issue 9, pp 1047–1067 | Cite as

Species complex delimitation and patterns of population structure at different geographic scales in Neotropical silver catfish (Rhamdia: Heptapteridae)

  • Néstor Ríos
  • Carmen Bouza
  • Verónica Gutiérrez
  • Graciela García


The Neotropical catfish genus Rhamdia inhabits rivers and lakes from Mexico to Argentina. Previous studies have found that the taxonomy of this genus, as well as that of R. quelen, remains controversial. The present study aims to contribute to the understanding of Rhamdia systematics by delimiting putative species, and to elucidate the pattern of genetic differentiation of Rhamdia at different geographic levels within the cis-andean region. Species boundaries were defined by Generalized Mixed Yule Coalescent and Automatic Barcode Gap Discovery methods, and by phylogenetic analyses of cytochrome b (cyt b) sequences. Moreover, we performed phylogeographic analyses based on cyt b sequences and microsatellite markers. Patterns of differentiation were analyzed at three nested geographic levels: in the main cis-andean basins (macrogeographic scale); in the second major Neotropical basin system (mesogeographic scale), which encompasses La Plata basin, Patos-Merin basin, and the coastal lagoons draining to SW Atlantic Ocean; and finally, in the three most important coastal lagoons for artisanal fisheries in Uruguay (microgeographic scale). Sixteen species were found within Rhamdia, divided into two clades (cis- and trans-andean clades), each composed of eight putative species. Cis-andean Rhamdia species have probably diverged due to vicariance events occurring between and within basins since late Miocene-Pleistocene. Microgeographic scale analysis based on cyt b and microsatellite data revealed a high genetic structuring among the studied coastal lagoons. Mitochondrial and microsatellite markers enabled to identify three different populations, corresponding to the three coastal lagoons analyzed, which would have diverged recently and could be considered as different Management Units.


Phylogeography Rhamdia quelen Conservation units Microsatellite loci Mitochondrial marker 



We thank Fondo Maria Viñas-Agencia Nacional de Investigación e Innovación (FMV_2009_2793) for the financial support. We thank the following colleagues for kindly providing R. quelen specimens from different basins of Uruguay: F. Texeira, M. Loureiro, WS. Serra, A. Duarte, W. López and C. Clavijo. The authors are also grateful to the Japanese government for the donation of laboratory equipment. The research of G.G. and V.G. was also supported by Sistema Nacional de Investigadores- Agencia Nacional de Investigación e Innovación (SNI-ANII).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Néstor Ríos
    • 1
    • 2
  • Carmen Bouza
    • 3
  • Verónica Gutiérrez
    • 1
  • Graciela García
    • 1
  1. 1.Sección Genética Evolutiva, Facultad de CienciasUdelaRMontevideoUruguay
  2. 2.Museo Nacional de Historia NaturalMontevideoUruguay
  3. 3.Departamento de Zoología, Genética y Antropología Física, Facultad de Veterinaria, Campus de LugoUniversidade de Santiago de CompostelaLugoSpain

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