Biogeographical history of the genus Atherina (Pisces: Atherinidae) in the central Eastern Atlantic


The biogeographical history of Macaronesian and South African sand-smelt is approached for the first time with the inclusion of A. lopeziana in the genus’ phylogenetic analysis, using a fragment of the mitochondrial control region. The fossil-calibrated phylogeny revealed an early process of vicariance close to the estimated age of Atherina (~ 19 Mya) leading to two old clades separating European from South African sand-smelts; these two groups evolved into the five extant species. The question raised by previous studies about the identity of the Macaronesian sand-smelt was confirmed; A. presbyter reached Canary Islands and Azores (~ 1.1 Ma) and the populations in these archipelagos have remained highly isolated. The poor dispersal capability of this genus in conjunction with the fast cooling events during Pliocene and Pleistocene was pointed out as the main factor causing the isolation and speciation processes of the populations inhabiting these regions.

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This study was funded by MARE (UID/MAR/04292/2019)—Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia—FCT (partially FEDER funded) and by the Erasmus+ Programme as a project developed during a 3-month traineeship by the first author.

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Correspondence to S. Moreno-Borges.

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The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study were deposited in the GenBank repository (accession numbers MH177219- MH177228). Any dataset generated during and/or analyzed during the current study is available from the corresponding author on reasonable request. Any publicly available data on which the conclusions of the paper rely in the manuscript are cited in the reference list and when available full URL DOIs are included.

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Moreno-Borges, S., Brito, A. & Francisco, S.M. Biogeographical history of the genus Atherina (Pisces: Atherinidae) in the central Eastern Atlantic. Mar. Biodivers. 49, 2633–2639 (2019).

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  • Sand-smelts
  • Atherina. lopeziana
  • Fossil-calibrated
  • Macaronesia