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MOLECULAR ZOOGEOGRAPHY OF FRESHWATER FISHES IN THE SOUTHEASTERN UNITED STATES

Eldredge Bermingham, John C Avise

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ABSTRACT Restriction fragment length polymorphisms in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) were used to reconstruct evolutionary relationships of conspecific populations in four species of freshwater fish—Amia calva, Lepomis punctatus, L. gulosus, and L. microlophus. A suite of 14-17 endonucleases was employed to assay mtDNAs from 305 specimens collected from 14 river drainages extending from South Carolina to Louisiana. Extensive mtDNA polymorphism was observed within each assayed species. In both phenograms and Wagner parsimony networks, mtDNA clones that were closely related genetically were usually geographically contiguous. Within each species, major mtDNA phylogenetic breaks also distinguished populations from separate geographic regions, demonstrating that dispersal and gene flow have not been sufficient to override geographic influences on population subdivision.—Importantly, there were strong patterns of congruence across species in the geographic placements of the mtDNA phylogenetic breaks. Three major boundary regions were characterized by concentrations of phylogenetic discontinuities, and these zones agree well with previously described zoogeographic boundaries identified by a different kind of data base—distributional limits of species—suggesting that a common set of historical factors may account for both phenomena. Repeated episodes of eustatic sea level change along a relatively static continental morphology are the likely causes of several patterns of drainage isolation and coalescence, and these are discussed in relation to the genetic data.—Overall, results exemplify the positive role that intraspecific genetic analyses may play in historical zoogeographic reconstruction. They also point out the potential inadequacies of any interpretations of population genetic structure that fail to consider the influences of history in shaping that structure.