Lack of mitochondrial genetic structure in hamlets (Hypoplectrus spp.): recent speciation or ongoing hybridization?


Marina L. Ramon. Present address: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Long Marine Laboratory, University of California Santa Cruz, 100 Shaffer Road, COH 247, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA. Fax: 831 4593383; E-mail:


Species in the genus Hypoplectrus (hamlet fish) have been recognized primarily on the basis of colour morphology, which varies substantially. Limited differentiation in other morphological characters, however, has led to ongoing debate about their taxonomy. Our analysis of mtDNA sequences demonstrates neither reciprocal monophyly nor significant genetic differentiation among hamlet colour morphs. These data are potentially consistent with a model of recent speciation due to sexual selection on colour morphology. The presence within hamlets of two divergent mtDNA clades, however, suggests a longer history during which hybridization and gene flow have prevented the differentiation of hamlet colour morphs, at least in neutral genetic markers.