Divergence Time of the Two Regional Medaka Populations in Japan as a New Time Scale for Comparative Genomics of Vertebrates

Biol Lett. 2009 Dec 23;5(6):812-6. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2009.0419. Epub 2009 Jul 8.


The southern and northern Japanese populations of the medaka fish provide useful tools to gain insights into the comparative genomics and speciation of vertebrates, because they can breed to produce healthy and fertile offspring despite their highly divergent genetic backgrounds compared with those of human-chimpanzee. Comparative genomics analysis has suggested that such large genetic differences between the two populations are caused by higher molecular evolutionary rates among the medakas than those of the hominids. The argument, however, was based on the assumption that the two Japanese populations diverged approximately at the same time (4.0-4.7 Myr ago) as the human-chimpanzee lineage (5.0-6.0 Myr ago). This can be misleading, because the divergence time of the two populations was calculated based on estimated, extremely higher molecular evolutionary rates of other fishes with an implicit assumption of a global molecular clock. Here we show that our estimate, based on a Bayesian relaxed molecular-clock analysis of whole mitogenome sequences from 72 ray-finned fishes (including 14 medakas), is about four times older than that of the previous study (18 Myr). This remarkably older estimate can be reconciled with the vicariant events of the Japanese archipelago, and the resulting rates of molecular evolution are almost identical between the medaka and hominid lineages. Our results further highlight the fact that reproductive isolation may not evolve despite a long period of geographical isolation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Comparative Genomic Hybridization*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Genome, Mitochondrial
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Oryzias / genetics*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Time Factors


  • DNA, Mitochondrial