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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Evolutionary history of Otophysi (Teleostei), a major clade of the modern freshwater fishes: Pangaean origin and Mesozoic radiation

Masanori Nakatani1, Masaki Miya2*, Kohji Mabuchi1, Kenji Saitoh3 and Mutsumi Nishida1

Author affiliations

1 Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo, 5-1-5 Kashiwanoha, Kashiwa-shi, Chiba 277-8564, Japan

2 Natural History Museum and Institute, Chiba, 955-2 Aoba-cho, Chuo-ku, Chiba 260-8682, Japan

3 National Research Institute of Fisheries Science, 2-12-4 Fukuura, Kanazawa, Kanagawa 236-8648, Japan

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Citation and License

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:177  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-177

Published: 22 June 2011

Abstract

Background

Freshwater harbors approximately 12,000 fish species accounting for 43% of the diversity of all modern fish. A single ancestral lineage evolved into about two-thirds of this enormous biodiversity (≈ 7900 spp.) and is currently distributed throughout the world's continents except Antarctica. Despite such remarkable species diversity and ubiquity, the evolutionary history of this major freshwater fish clade, Otophysi, remains largely unexplored. To gain insight into the history of otophysan diversification, we constructed a timetree based on whole mitogenome sequences across 110 species representing 55 of the 64 families.

Results

Partitioned maximum likelihood analysis based on unambiguously aligned sequences (9923 bp) confidently recovered the monophyly of Otophysi and the two constituent subgroups (Cypriniformes and Characiphysi). The latter clade comprised three orders (Gymnotiformes, Characiformes, Siluriformes), and Gymnotiformes was sister to the latter two groups. One of the two suborders in Characiformes (Characoidei) was more closely related to Siluriformes than to its own suborder (Citharinoidei), rendering the characiforms paraphyletic. Although this novel relationship did not receive strong statistical support, it was supported by analyzing independent nuclear markers. A relaxed molecular clock Bayesian analysis of the divergence times and reconstruction of ancestral habitats on the timetree suggest a Pangaean origin and Mesozoic radiation of otophysans.

Conclusions

The present timetree demonstrates that survival of the ancestral lineages through the two consecutive mass extinctions on Pangaea, and subsequent radiations during the Jurassic through early Cretaceous shaped the modern familial diversity of otophysans. This evolutionary scenario is consistent with recent arguments based on biogeographic inferences and molecular divergence time estimates. No fossil otophysan, however, has been recorded before the Albian, the early Cretaceous 100-112 Ma, creating an over 100 million year time span without fossil evidence. This formidable ghost range partially reflects a genuine difference between the estimated ages of stem group origin (molecular divergence time) and crown group morphological diversification (fossil divergence time); the ghost range, however, would be filled with discoveries of older fossils that can be used as more reasonable time constraints as well as with developments of more realistic models that capture the rates of molecular sequences accurately.