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Open Access Research article

Mitogenomic evaluation of the historical biogeography of cichlids toward reliable dating of teleostean divergences

Yoichiro Azuma1, Yoshinori Kumazawa23*, Masaki Miya4, Kohji Mabuchi1 and Mutsumi Nishida1

Author Affiliations

1 Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo, 1-15-1 Minamidai, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 164-8639, Japan

2 Division of Material Science and Biological Science, Graduate School of Science, Nagoya University, Furo-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya 464-8602, Japan

3 Department of Information and Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Natural Sciences, Nagoya City University, 1 Yamanohata, Mizuho-cho, Mizuho-ku, Nagoya 467-8501, Japan

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

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2008, 8:215  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-215

Published: 23 July 2008



Recent advances in DNA sequencing and computation offer the opportunity for reliable estimates of divergence times between organisms based on molecular data. Bayesian estimations of divergence times that do not assume the molecular clock use time constraints at multiple nodes, usually based on the fossil records, as major boundary conditions. However, the fossil records of bony fishes may not adequately provide effective time constraints at multiple nodes. We explored an alternative source of time constraints in teleostean phylogeny by evaluating a biogeographic hypothesis concerning freshwater fishes from the family Cichlidae (Perciformes: Labroidei).


We added new mitogenomic sequence data from six cichlid species and conducted phylogenetic analyses using a large mitogenomic data set. We found a reciprocal monophyly of African and Neotropical cichlids and their sister group relationship to some Malagasy taxa (Ptychochrominae sensu Sparks and Smith). All of these taxa clustered with a Malagasy + Indo/Sri Lankan clade (Etroplinae sensu Sparks and Smith). The results of the phylogenetic analyses and divergence time estimations between continental cichlid clades were much more congruent with Gondwanaland origin and Cretaceous vicariant divergences than with Cenozoic transmarine dispersal between major continents.


We propose to add the biogeographic assumption of cichlid divergences by continental fragmentation as effective time constraints in dating teleostean divergence times. We conducted divergence time estimations among teleosts by incorporating these additional time constraints and achieved a considerable reduction in credibility intervals in the estimated divergence times.