Phylogenetic relationships of tropical western Atlantic snappers in subfamily Lutjaninae (Lutjanidae: Perciformes) inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences Academic Article uri icon


  • Phylogenetic relationships among 20 nominal species of tropical lutjanine snappers (Lutjanidae) (12 from the western Atlantic, one from the eastern Pacific, and seven from the Indo-Pacific) were inferred based on 2206bp (712 variable, 614 parsimony informative) from three protein-coding mitochondrial genes. Also included in the analysis were DNA sequences from two individuals, identified initially as Lutjanus apodus, which were sampled off the coast of Bahia State in Brazil (western Atlantic), and from three individuals labelled as 'red snapper' in the fish market in Puerto Armuelles, Panama (eastern Pacific). Bayesian posterior probabilities and maximum-likelihood bootstrap percentages strongly supported monophyly of all lutjanines sampled and the hypothesis that western Atlantic lutjanines are derived from an Indo-Pacific lutjanine lineage. The phylogenetic hypothesis also indicated that oceans where lutjanines are distributed (western Atlantic, eastern Pacific, and Indo-Pacific) are not reciprocally monophyletic for the species distributed within them. There were three strongly supported clades that included all western Atlantic lutjanines: one included six species of Lutjanus from the western Atlantic, two species of Lutjanus from the eastern Pacific, and the monotypic genera Rhomboplites and Ocyurus (western Atlantic); one that included three, probably four, species of Lutjanus in the western Atlantic; and one that included Lutjanus cyanopterus (western Atlantic), an unknown species of Lutjanus from the eastern Pacific, and three species of Lutjanus from the Indo-Pacific. Molecular-clock calibrations supported an early Miocene diversification of an Indo-Pacific lutjanine lineage that dispersed into the western Atlantic via the Panamanian Gateway. Divergent evolution among these lutjanines appears to have occurred both by vicariant and ecological speciation: the former following significant geographic or geological events, including both shoaling and closure of the Panamanian Gateway and tectonic upheavals, whereas the latter occurred via phenotypic diversification inferred to indicate adaptation to life in different habitats. Taxonomic revision of western Atlantic lutjanines appears warranted in that monotypic Ocyurus and Rhomboplites should be subsumed within the genus Lutjanus. Finally, it appears that retail mislabelling of 'red snapper' in commercial markets extends beyond the USA. © 2011 The Linnean Society of London.

author list (cited authors)

  • GOLD, J. R., VOELKER, G., & RENSHAW, M. A.

citation count

  • 19

publication date

  • April 2011