Phylogenetic relationship of two Mola sunfishes (Tetraodontiformes: Molidae) occurring around the coast of Japan, with notes on their geographical distribution and morphological characteristics

Abstract

Phylogenetic analyses were conducted using complete nucleotide sequences of the D-loop in the mitochondrial genome of Mola specimens, collected mainly in Japanese waters, to clarify the genetic features and distribution patterns of Mola sunfishes. Two significantly distinct groups (designated A and B) were present in the genus, with a considerable net nucleotide sequence divergence between the two (8.4%). The two groups occurred sympatrically around the Japanese coast, as previously suggested by Sagara et al. (2005). Group A occurred mostly on the Pacific coast of eastern Japan, while group B was widely distributed along the Kuroshio Current, strongly suggesting different migration routes for each group. The morphological characteristics of the two group specimens were differentiated via the head bump, body proportions and shape of the clavus. Through the addition of Mola sequence data taken from outside Japan to our phylogenetic analyses, three independent groups, including groups A and B, were found, each with a wide geographical distribution, which suggests the presence of at least three independent species within the genus Mola.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to D. J. Bray, H. Doi, K. Hidaka, H. Hsuan-Ching, Y. Kamiguchi, Y. Kashiwagi, Y. Kawakami, A. Kijima, M. Kodama, A. Kuramatsu, H. K. Larson, K. Maeda, M. McGrouther, P. D. R. Møller, M. Nakae, T. Serizawa, T. Shimose, S. Shimoyama, S. Tada, M. Taguchi, M. Toda, M. Tomitaka, N. Tomotake, D. Ueno, M. Yamada, M. Yamaguchi, the staff of Ogasawara Fisheries Center, and the fishery associations at Onagawa, Ishinomaki, Otsuchi, Omoe and Kamaishi for providing us tissue samples. Thanks are also due to K. Aoki, T. Arai, N. Katsumata, K. Morita, T. Narazaki, M. Oka, K. Sato and the staff of International Coastal Research Center, Ocean Research Institute, University of Tokyo, for their helpful suggestions and considerable sampling support. We deeply thank K. Matsuura for support and helpful advice, T. Okawa for technical support on the phylogenetic study and for reviewing an earlier version of the manuscript. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for suggestions and comments on the manuscript. This study was supported by a grant from the Graduate School of Biosphere Science, Hiroshima University. We declare that any experiments in the present study comply with the current law of Japan.

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Correspondence to Yoichi Sakai.

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Yoshita, Y., Yamanoue, Y., Sagara, K. et al. Phylogenetic relationship of two Mola sunfishes (Tetraodontiformes: Molidae) occurring around the coast of Japan, with notes on their geographical distribution and morphological characteristics. Ichthyol Res 56, 232 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10228-008-0089-3

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Keywords

  • Mitochondrial genome
  • D-loop
  • Ocean sunfishes
  • Phylogenetic relationships
  • Morphological characteristics