A molecular phylogeny for aplocheiloid fishes (Atherinomorpha, Cyprinodontiformes): the role of vicariance and the origins of annualism. Academic Article uri icon


  • Annual aplocheiloid killifish embryos possess a rare ability among vertebrates to enter stages of developmental arrest (diapause) when subjected to adverse environmental conditions. Previous morphological analyses have presented disparate hypotheses regarding the evolution of the intriguing life history associated with this phenomenon. We present a novel hypothesis of aplocheiloid relationships based on 1,009 bp of sequence data from three mitochondrial genes (cytochrome b, 12S rRNA, and 16S rRNA). Phylogenetic analysis using maximum parsimony, neighbor-joining, and maximum likelihood produce strongly congruent topologies. Our data confirm the monophyly of the Neotropical family Rivulidae, while demonstrating a paraphyletic Old World assemblage. The basal sister group position of Indo-Malaysian and Madagascaran taxa relative to a monophyletic South American/African dichotomy strongly indicates the role of vicariance in the diversification of these fishes in spite of their definition as secondary freshwater fish. The distribution of annualism onto this topology implies a single early origin for this suite of characters, prior to the divergence of South American and African taxa. If so, then annualism has since been lost several times during the evolution of genera now residing in permanent aquatic habitats. Paleoclimatic knowledge complements this scenario based on molecular characters.

author list (cited authors)

  • Murphy, W. J., & Collier, G. E.

citation count

  • 130

complete list of authors

  • Murphy, WJ||Collier, GE

publication date

  • August 1997