A phylogenetic and biogeographic perspective on the evolution of poeciliid fishes.
Phylogenetic relationships of members of the subfamily Poeciliinae (Cyprinodontiformes) are investigated to test alternate hypotheses of diversification resulting from the assembly of the Central America and the Caribbean from the Cretaceous period onwards. We use 4333 aligned base pairs of mitochondrial DNA and 1549 aligned base pairs of nuclear DNA from 55 samples representing 48 ingroup and seven outgroup species to test this hypothesis. Mitochondrial genes analyzed include those encoding the 12S and 16S ribosomal RNAs; transfer RNAs coding for valine, leucine, isoleucine, glutamine, methionine, tryptophan, alanine, asparagine, cysteine and tyrosine; and complete cytochrome b and NADH dehydrogenase subunit I and II; nuclear gene analyzed included the third exon of the recombination activation gene 1 (RAG1). Analyses of combined mtDNA and nuclear DNA data sets result in a well-supported phylogenetic hypothesis. This hypothesis is in conflict with the classical taxonomic assignment of genera into tribes and phylogenetic hypotheses based on the taxonomy; however, the molecular hypothesis defines nine clades that are geographically restricted and consistent with the geological evolution of Central America and the Caribbean. Our analyses support multiple colonization events of Middle America followed by a mix of vicariance and dispersal events.