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Phylogenetics And Biogeography Of The Balkan ‘Sand Gobies’ (Teleostei: Gobiidae)
November 21, 2011
9:04 am
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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Abstract

Within the Atlantic–Mediterranean region, the ‘sand gobies’ are abundant and widespread, and play an important role in marine, brackish, and freshwater ecosystems. They include the smallest European freshwater fish, Economidichthys trichonis, which is threatened by habitat loss and pollution, as are several other sand gobies. Key to good conservation management is an accurate account of the number of evolutionary significant units. Nevertheless, many taxonomic and evolutionary questions remain unresolved within the clade, and molecular studies are lacking, especially in the Balkans. Using partial 12S and 16S mitochondrial ribosomal DNA sequences of 96 specimens of at least eight nominal species (both freshwater and marine populations), we assess species relationships and compare molecular and morphological data. The results obtained do not support the monophyly of Economidichthys, suggesting the perianal organ to be a shared adaptation to hole-brooding rather than a synapomorphy, and urge for a taxonomic revision of Knipowitschia. The recently described Knipowitschia montenegrina seems to belong to a separate South-East Adriatic lineage. Knipowitschia milleri, an alleged endemic of the Acheron River, and Knipowitschia cf. panizzae, are shown to be very closely related to other western Greek Knipowitschia populations, and appear conspecific. A distinct Macedonian–Thessalian lineage is formed by Knipowitschia thessala, whereas Knipowitschia caucasica appears as an eastern lineage, with populations in Thrace and the Aegean. The present study combines the phylogeny of a goby radiation with insights on the historical biogeography of the eastern Mediterranean, and identifies evolutionary units meriting conservation attention.

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