Evolutionary processes in East Asian ninespine sticklebacks (Pungitius spp.), including both extremes of armor morphology in the genus, were demonstrated with mitochondrial DNA control region (CR) phylogeny. Entire CR sequences (830-930 bp long) were determined for three species: the most heavily armored (P. sinensis), the most reduced (P. tymensis), and an intermediate (P. pungitius). The former two species are endemic to East Asia, the latter being circumpolar. Three major lineages (A, B, and C) were revealed, whereas both the phylogenetic trees and the insertion sequence dynamics supported the polyphyly of P. sinensis. Haplotypes of the mainland populations of P. sinensis possessed lineage B, being the sister group of P. tymensis lineage A. Island populations of P. sinensis, however, possessed lineage C, along with all P. pungitius haplotypes. A molecular clock hypothesis was clearly rejected for the CR sequences, significantly slower evolutionary rates being observed in the P. tymensis lineage. The split of mainland P. sinensis and P. tymensis was considered to have preceded that of the lineage C colonization in East Asia. The contrasting morphology is probably attributable to adaptation of P. tymensis to island freshwater environments and an ecological interaction between P. tymensis and lineage C emigrants.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.