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Open Access Research article

Comparative phylogeography of Atlantic reef fishes indicates both origin and accumulation of diversity in the Caribbean

Luiz A Rocha1*, Claudia R Rocha1, D Ross Robertson2 and Brian W Bowen1

Author Affiliations

1 Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii, P.O. 1346, Kaneohe, HI 96744, USA

2 Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa, Republic of Panamá

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2008, 8:157  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-157

Published: 22 May 2008

Abstract

Background

Two processes may contribute to the formation of global centers of biodiversity: elevated local speciation rates (the center of origin hypothesis), and greater accumulation of species formed elsewhere (the center of accumulation hypothesis). The relative importance of these processes has long intrigued marine biogeographers but rarely has been tested.

Results

To examine how origin and accumulation affected the Greater Caribbean center of diversity, we conducted a range-wide survey of mtDNA cytochrome b in the widespread Atlantic reef damselfish Chromis multilineata (N = 183) that included 10 locations in all four tropical Atlantic biogeographic provinces: the Greater Caribbean, Brazil, the mid-Atlantic ridge, and the tropical eastern Atlantic. We analyzed this data and re-evaluated published genetic data from other reef fish taxa (wrasses and parrotfishes) to resolve the origin and dispersal of mtDNA lineages. Parsimony networks, mismatch distributions and phylogenetic analyses identify the Caribbean population of C. multilineata as the oldest, consistent with the center of origin model for the circum-Atlantic radiation of this species. However, some Caribbean haplotypes in this species were derived from Brazilian lineages, indicating that mtDNA diversity has not only originated but also accumulated in the Greater Caribbean. Data from the wrasses and parrotfishes indicate an origin in the Greater Caribbean in one case, Caribbean origin plus accumulation in another, and accumulation in the remaining two.

Conclusion

Our analyses indicate that the Greater Caribbean marine biodiversity hotspot did not arise through the action of a single mode of evolutionary change. Reef fish distributions at the boundaries between Caribbean and Brazilian provinces (the SE Caribbean and NE Brazil, respectively) indicate that the microevolutionary patterns we detected in C. multilineata and other reef fishes translate into macroevolutionary processes and that origin and accumulation have acted in concert to form the Greater Caribbean biodiversity hotspot.