Mitochondrial molecular clocks and the origin of the major Otocephalan clades (Pisces: Teleostei): A new insight

Apr 1, 2006

The Otocephala, a clade including ostariophysan and clupeomorph teleosts, represents about a quarter of total fish species diversity, with about 1000 genera and more than 7000 species. A series of recent papers have defended that the origin of this clade and of its major groups may be significantly older than the oldest fossils of each of these groups suggest. Some of these recent papers explicitly defend a Pangean origin for some otocephalan groups such as the Siluriformes or Cypriniformes. To know whether or not the otocephalans as a whole, and particularly the mainly freshwater, cosmopolitan otophysans could have originated before the splitting of the Pangean supercontinent is of extreme importance, since otophysan fishes are among the most useful animal groups for the determination of historical continental relationships. In the present work we examined divergence times for each major otocephalan group by an analysis of complete mtDNA sequences, in order to investigate if these divergence times support the hypotheses advanced in recent studies. The complete mtDNA sequences of nine representative non-otocephalan fish species and of twenty-one representative otocephalan species was compared. The present study is thus, among the studies dealing with molecular divergence times of teleosts, the one in which a greater number of otocephalan species are included. The divergence times obtained support that the major otocephalan groups had a much older origin than the oldest fossil records available for these groups suggest. The origin of the Otocephala is estimated as having occurred about 282 Mya, with the origin of the Otophysi being estimated at about 251 Mya.