Intraspecific phylogeography of the slender madtom: the complex evolutionary history of the Central Highlands of the United States


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A number of different biogeographical studies of the Central Highlands of the United States have yielded conflicting area cladograms. We estimate the mtDNA phylogeny of populations of the slender madtom, Noturus exilis, a clear-water stream catfish. The goal is to compare population relationships to those reported in previous studies that used upland, stream-dwelling vertebrates. A region of the NADH dehydrogenase subunit 4 gene, along with adjacent tRNAs, was sequenced for population samples from 21 different Central Highlands rivers. Sequence difference among 39 haplotypes ranged from 0.1% to 4.8%. Most haplotypes were restricted to specific rivers and mapped well onto geography. Slender madtoms from different drainages contained mostly monophyletic groups of haplotypes genetically divergent from haplotypes found in other drainages, although a few haplotypes were found in well-separated drainages. The area cladogram for the slender madtom was not similar to any of the other cladograms for other species and species groups from the area. We discuss a variety of methodological and biological reasons for the discordance, and suggest that some of the discrepancies may be resolved by the sequencing of multiple genes per species. We recommend that more, and more extensive, intraspecific phylogeography studies should be conducted for species living in the Central Highlands rivers.