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Diagnosing Cryptic Diversity In The Southern Cavefish, Typhlichthys subterraneus

Home Forums Ichthyology Diagnosing Cryptic Diversity In The Southern Cavefish, Typhlichthys subterraneus

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    Matt
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    Abstract

    A major challenge facing biodiversity conservation and management is that a significant portion of species diversity remains undiscovered or undescribed. This is particularly evident in subterranean animals in which species delimitation based on morphology is difficult because differentiation is often obscured by phenotypic convergence. Multilocus genetic data constitute a valuable source of information for species delimitation in such organisms, but until recently, few methods were available to objectively test species delimitation hypotheses using genetic data. Here we use recently developed methods for discovering and testing species boundaries and relationships using a multilocus dataset in a widely distributed subterranean teleost fish, Typhlichthys subterraneus, endemic to eastern North America. We provide evidence that species diversity in T. subterraneus is currently underestimated and that the picture of a single, widely distributed species is not supported. Rather, several morphologically cryptic lineages comprise the diversity in this clade, including support for the recognition of T. eigenmanni. The high number of cryptic species in Typhlichthys highlights the utility of multilocus genetic data in delimiting species, particularly in lineages that exhibit slight morphological disparity, such as subterranean organisms. However, results depend on sampling of individuals and loci; this issue needs further study.

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