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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Molecular systematics and biogeography of the Holarctic smelt family Osmeridae (Pisces) Ilves, Katriina Larissa


Biogeographers have long searched for common processes responsible for driving diversification in the Holarctic region. Although terrestrial flora and fauna have been well studied, much of the marine biogeographic work addresses patterns and processes occurring over a relatively recent timescale. A prerequisite to comparative biogeographic analysis requires well-resolved phylogenies of similarly distributed taxa that diverged over a similar timeframe. The overall aim of my Ph.D. thesis was to address fundamental questions in the systematics and biogeography of a family of Holarctic fish (Osmeridae) and place these results in a broad comparative biogeographic framework. With eight conflicting morphological hypotheses, the northern hemisphere smelts have long been the subjects of systematic disagreement. In addition to the uncertainty in the interrelationships within this family, the relationship of the Osmeridae to several other families remains unclear. Using DNA sequence data from three mitochondrial and three nuclear genes from multiple individuals per species, I reconstructed the phylogenetic relationships among the 6 genera and 15 osmerid species. Phylogenetic reconstruction and divergence dating yielded a well-resolved phylogeny of the osmerid genera and revealed several interesting evolutionary patterns within the family: (1) Hypomesus chishimaensis and H. nipponensis individuals are not reciprocally monophyletic, suggesting that they are conspecific and H. chishimaensis is a recently evolved freshwater ecotype that invaded the Kuril Islands following the last glaciation, (2) The trans-Pacific sister relationships in Hypomesus based on lateral line scale counts are not supported, implying that this phenotype evolved in parallel on each side of the North Pacific Ocean, (3) The Plecoglossidae are the Osmeridae sister group, (4) Over half of the characters from previous studies show evidence of parallel evolution; however, 27 traits reflect ancestral relationships, (5) Multiple divergences within the Osmeridae date to both the mid-Miocene cooling period and the Pliocene Bering Seaway opening, suggesting these events were important in the evolution of these fishes, and (6) Divergences in many marine taxa for which dated phylogenies are available are also correlated with these time periods. Future research should target additional Holarctic marine taxa for further comparative analysis.

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