Phylogeographic patterns and species delimitation in the endangered silverside “humboldtianum” clade (Pisces: Atherinopsidae) in central Mexico: understanding their evolutionary history

  • Isai Betancourt-Resendes
  • Rodolfo Perez-Rodríguez
  • Irene De Los Angeles Barriga-Sosa
  • Kyle R. Piller
  • Omar Domínguez-DomínguezEmail author
Original Article


The Atherinopsidae is the second largest group of freshwater fishes occupying central Mexico and is one of biological, cultural, and economic importance. The “humboldtianum” clade (Genus Chirostoma) is a “species flock” of nine described species that inhabit lacustrine ecosystems in central Mexico. The high morphological polymorphism within the group makes species identification difficult and thereby limits the development of research and management projects focusing on this group. In this study, we used phylogeographic and coalescent-based methods to understand the evolution of genetic variation among these species. The results revealed taxonomic inaccuracies and genetic admixture among species. Genetic variation was structured geographically, rather than taxonomically, and five closely related genetic groups were recovered. Two evolutionary pathways were found. First, a novel geographical arrangement of haplotypes was recovered that gave rise to the five recently (Pleistocene, < 1 Myr) derived genetic groups. The second pathway showed a recent intra-lacustrine genetic differentiation that could be associated with sympatric or ecological speciation. The current classification of the group is revised and includes a reduction in the number of valid species in the “humboldtianum” clade. Moreover, this study provides new insight into the biogeography and evolutionary history of this important group of fishes.


Species flock Phenotypic plasticity Recent divergences Taxonomic inaccuracy Polymorphism 



IBR would like to thank the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACyT) for granting a scholarship, and the CIPRES Cyberinfrastructure for Phylogenetic Research XSEDE for their computational support. Conacyt-CB-2009-1-130220 to IDLAB partially funded the specimen sampling. We thank the División de estudios de Posgrado de la Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo for funding the English editing of the manuscript. We thank B. García-Andrade, G. Beltrán-López, A. González-Alejo, D. Montejo-Diaz and F. Mar-Silva for their field support.

Funding information

We thank the Coordinación de la Investigación Científica-UMSNH, of Mexico (CIC-2016-18 to ODD) and the National Science Foundation (NSF 1354930 to KRP) for financially funding the project.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Gesellschaft für Biologische Systematik 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Isai Betancourt-Resendes
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rodolfo Perez-Rodríguez
    • 3
    • 4
  • Irene De Los Angeles Barriga-Sosa
    • 5
  • Kyle R. Piller
    • 6
  • Omar Domínguez-Domínguez
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Programa Institucional de Doctorado en Ciencias Biológicas, Facultad de BiologíaUniversidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de HidalgoMoreliaMéxico
  2. 2.CONACYT-Facultad de Ciencias NaturalesUniversidad Autónoma de QuerétaroSantiago de QuerétaroMéxico
  3. 3.Laboratorio de Biología Acuática, Facultad de BiologíaUniversidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de HidalgoMoreliaMéxico
  4. 4.Laboratorio Nacional de Análisis y Síntesis Ecológica para la Conservación de Recursos Genéticos de México, Escuela Nacional de Estudios SuperioresUnidad Morelia, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMoreliaMéxico
  5. 5.Laboratorio de Genética y Biología Molecular de la Planta Experimental de Producción Acuícola Departamento de HidrobiologíaUniversidad Autónoma Metropolitana Unidad IztapalapaMéxicoMéxico
  6. 6.Department of Biological SciencesSoutheastern Louisiana UniversityHammondUSA

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