Mastacembelid eels support Lake Tanganyika as an evolutionary hotspot of diversification
1 Department of Genetics, Evolution & Environment, University College London, Wolfson House, 4, Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HE, UK
2 Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK
3 South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, Grahamstown, South Africa
BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:188 doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-188Published: 19 June 2010
Lake Tanganyika (LT) is the oldest of the African Rift Lakes and is one of the richest freshwater ecosystems on Earth, with high levels of faunal diversity and endemism. The endemic species flocks that occur in this lake, such as cichlid fishes, gastropods, catfish and crabs, provide unique comparative systems for the study of patterns and processes of speciation. Mastacembelid eels (Teleostei: Mastacembelidae) are a predominately riverine family of freshwater fish, occurring across Africa and Asia, but which also form a small species flock in LT.
Including 25 species across Africa, plus Asian representatives as outgroups, we present the first molecular phylogenetic analysis for the group, focusing particularly on the evolutionary history and biodiversity of LT mastacembelid eels. A combined matrix of nuclear and mitochondrial genes based on 3118 bp are analysed implementing different phylogenetic methods, including Bayesian inference and maximum likelihood.
LT Mastacembelus are recovered as monophyletic, and analyses reveal the rapid diversification of five main LT lineages. Relaxed molecular clock dates provide age estimates for the LT flock at ~7-8 Myr, indicating intralacustrine diversification, with further speciation events coinciding with periods of lower lake level. Our analyses also reveal as yet undescribed diversity of lacustrine and riverine species. A Southern-Eastern African clade, that is younger than the LT flock, is also recovered, while West African taxa are basal members of the African mastacembelid clade.
That the LT species flock of mastacembelid eels appears to have colonised and immediately diversified soon after the formation of the lake, supports the view of LT as an evolutionary hotspot of diversification. We find evidence for biogeographic clades mirroring a similar pattern to other ichthyological faunas. In addition, our analyses also highlight a split of African and Asian mastacembelid eels at ~19 Myr that is considerably younger than the split between their associated continents, suggesting a dispersal scenario for their current distribution.