The Cytochrome B Gene as a Phylogenetic Marker: The Limits of Resolution for Analyzing Relationships Among Cichlid Fishes

J Mol Evol. 2001 Aug;53(2):89-103. doi: 10.1007/s002390010197.


The mitochondrial cytochrome b (cyt-b) gene is widely used in systematic studies to resolve divergences at many taxonomic levels. The present study focuses mainly on the utility of cyt-b as a molecular marker for inferring phylogenetic relationship at various levels within the fish family Cichlidae. A total of 78 taxa were used in the present analysis, representing all the major groups in the family Cichlidae (72 taxa) and other families from the suborders Labroidei and Percoidei. Gene trees obtained from cyt-b are compared to a published total evidence tree derived from previous studies. Minimum evolution trees based on cyt-b data resulted in topologies congruent with all previous analyses. Parsimony analyses downweighting transitions relative to transversions (ts1:tv4) or excluding transitions at third codon positions resulted in more robust bootstrap support for recognized clades than unweighted parsimony. Relative rate tests detected significantly long branches for some taxa (LB taxa) which were composed mainly by dwarf Neotropical cichlids. An improvement of the phylogenetic signal, as shown by the four-cluster likelihood mapping analysis, and higher bootstrap values were obtained by excluding LB taxa. Despite some limitations of cyt-b as a phylogenetic marker, this gene either alone or in combination with other data sets yields a tree that is in agreement with the well-established phylogeny of cichlid fish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytochrome b Group / genetics*
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Fishes / classification
  • Fishes / genetics*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • Cytochrome b Group
  • DNA

Associated data

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