Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Biogeography and evolution of the Carassius auratus-complex in East Asia

Mikumi Takada12*, Katsunori Tachihara1, Takeshi Kon2, Gunji Yamamoto2, Kei'ichiro Iguchi3, Masaki Miya4 and Mutsumi Nishida2

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory of Fisheries Biology & Coral Reef Studies, Faculty of Science, University of the Ryukyus, 1 Senbaru, Nishihara, Okinawa 903-0213, Japan

2 Department of Marine Bioscience, Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo, 1-15-1 Minamidai, Nakano, Tokyo 164-8639, Japan

3 National Research Institute of Fisheries Science, Fisheries Research Agency, Komaki 1088, Ueda, Nagano 386-0031, Japan

4 Department of Zoology, Natural History Museum & Institute, Chiba, 955-2 Aoba-cho, Chuo-ku, Chiba 260-8682, Japan

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:7  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-7

Published: 12 January 2010



Carassius auratus is a primary freshwater fish with bisexual diploid and unisexual gynogenetic triploid lineages. It is distributed widely in Eurasia and is especially common in East Asia. Although several genetic studies have been conducted on C. auratus, they have not provided clear phylogenetic and evolutionary descriptions of this fish, probably due to selection bias in sampling sites and the DNA regions analysed. As the first step in clarifying the evolutionary entity of the world's Carassius fishes, we attempted to clarify the phylogeny of C. auratus populations distributed in East Asia.


We conducted a detailed analysis of a large dataset of mitochondrial gene sequences [CR, 323 bp, 672 sequences (528 sequenced + 144 downloaded); CR + ND4 + ND5 + cyt b, 4669 bp in total, 53 sequences] obtained from C. auratus in East Asia. Our phylogeographic analysis revealed two superlineages, one distributed mainly among the Japanese main islands and the other in various regions in and around the Eurasian continent, including the Ryukyus and Taiwan. The two superlineages include seven lineages with high regional specificity that are composed of endemic populations indigenous to each region. The divergence time of the seven lineages was estimated to be 0.2 million years ago (Mya) by a fossil-based method and 1.0-1.9 Mya by the molecular clock method. The antiquity and endemism of these lineages suggest that they are native to their respective regions, although some seem to have been affected by the artificial introduction of C. auratus belonging to other lineages. Triploids of C. auratus did not form a monophyletic lineage but were clustered mostly with sympatric diploids.


The results of the present study revealed the existence of two superlineages of C. auratus in East Asia that include seven lineages endemic to each of the seven regions examined. The lack of substantial genetic separation between triploids and diploids indicates that triploids are not composed of a single independent lineage. The ancient origins and evolutionary uniqueness of the seven lineages warrant their conservation. An overall phylogenetic framework obtained from the present study will be of use for estimating the phylogenetic relationships of Carassius fishes on the Eurasian continent.