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Keywords:

  • Black Sea flood;
  • coalescent simulation;
  • gene genealogy;
  • Pleistocene;
  • Pontic glacial refugium;
  • statistical phylogeography

Abstract

We used DNA sequence variation at the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene (1141 bp) to assess the phylogeography of Barbus fishes in the Black Sea region. Our aim was to test whether the recent (≈ 22 000–7500 years ago) freshwater phase of the Black Sea was a conduit for gene flow among freshwater fishes that today are found in streams entering the saltwater Black Sea. Deep phylogeographical breaks suggestive of allopatric divergence were observed between four regional groups of populations. Coalescent simulation used to distinguish between this and an alternative scenario that the phylogeographical structure was due to random lineage sorting showed that the contemporary populations were unlikely (P < 0.001) to have been founded by a single ancestral population. Divergences between the lineages (0.86–2.54%) were dated to the Middle to Late Pleistocene using distances and a molecular clock corrected for superimposed substitutions. Taken together, this evidence suggests that multiple refugial populations survived over several later glaciations in the vicinity of the Black Sea. This Pontic refugium served as the primary source for the postglacial expansion throughout Europe as far as the Atlantic basin. However, only one of the phylogeographical lineages contributed to this dispersion, whereas the others remain restricted to the Black Sea region and followed independent evolutionary trajectories.