The Notothenioidei dominates the fish fauna of the Antarctic in both biomass and diversity. This clade exhibits adaptations related to metabolic function and freezing avoidance in the subzero Antarctic waters, and is characterized by a high degree of morphological and ecological diversity. Investigating the macroevolutionary processes that may have contributed to the radiation of notothenioid fishes requires a well-resolved phylogenetic hypothesis. To date published molecular and morphological hypotheses of notothenioids are largely congruent, however, there are some areas of significant disagreement regarding higher-level relationships. Also, there are critical areas of the notothenioid phylogeny that are unresolved in both molecular and morphological phylogenetic analyses. Previous molecular phylogenetic analyses of notothenioids using partial mtDNA 12S and 16S rRNA sequence data have resulted in limited phylogenetic resolution and relatively low node support. One particularly controversial result from these analyses is the paraphyly of the Nototheniidae, the most diverse family in the Notothenioidei. It is unclear if the phylogenetic results from the 12S and 16S partial gene sequence dataset are due to limited character sampling, or if they reflect patterns of evolutionary diversification in notothenioids. We sequenced the complete mtDNA 16S rRNA gene for 43 notothenioid species, the largest sampling to-date from all eight taxonomically recognized families. Phylogenetic analyses using both maximum parsimony and maximum likelihood resulted in well-resolved trees with most nodes supported with high bootstrap pseudoreplicate scores and significant Bayesian posterior probabilities. In all analyses the Nototheniidae was monophyletic. Shimodaira-Hasegawa tests were able to reject two hypotheses that resulted from prior morphological analyses. However, despite substantial resolution and node support in the 16S rRNA trees, several phylogenetic hypotheses among closely related species and clades were not rejected. The inability to reject particular hypotheses among species in apical clades is likely due to the lower rate of nucleotide substitution in mtDNA rRNA genes relative to protein coding regions. Nevertheless, with the most extensive notothenioid taxon sampling to date, and the much greater phylogenetic resolution offered by the complete 16S rRNA sequences over the commonly used partial 12S and 16S gene dataset, it would be advantageous for future molecular investigations of notothenioid phylogenetics to utilize at the minimum the complete gene 16S rRNA dataset.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology