Phylogenetic relationships among the 12 recognized fish species in the New World genus Centropomus (Pisces, Centropomidae) were analyzed using allozyme electrophoresis and 618 bp of the mitochondrial DNA 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene. Molecular phylogenetic trees were generally consistent with previously published partial hypotheses based on morphological evidence. However, previously undefined sister group relationships between major species groups were resolved using molecular data, and phylogenetic hypotheses for Centropomus based on 16S rRNA sequences were better supported than were allozyme-based hypotheses. The high level of congruence among the trees inferred from the nuclear and mitochondrial characters provided a firm phylogenetic basis for analysis of ecological diversification and molecular evolution in the genus. Compared to basal Centropomus species, members of the most nested species group were significantly larger in body size and occupied a marine niche only peripherally utilized by their congeners. We also observed substitution rate heterogeneity among 16S rRNA lineages; in contrast to expectations based on "metabolic rate" and "generation interval" models, relative substitution rates were faster than expected for the group of large-bodied snooks. Using the Pliocene rise of the Central American isthmian marine barrier to calibrate rates of 16S ribosomal gene evolution in Centropomus, we found that the rates for the genus were similar to those reported for higher vertebrates. Analysis of the three sets of transisthmian geminate taxa in Centropomus indicated that two of the pairs were probably formed during the Pliocene rise of the isthmus while the third pair diverged several million years earlier.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.