Get access

Cryptic diversity in a widespread live-bearing fish (Poeciliidae: Belonesox)


Corresponding author. Current address: Texas A&M University, 210 Nagle Hall, College Station, TX 77843, USA. E-mail:


Belonesox belizanus Kner (Teleostei: Poeciliidae) is a wide-spread livebearing species that occurs on the Atlantic Slope of Central America from southern Mexico to northern Costa Rica. Previous work has noted morphological variation within the species, and recognized two subspecies: Belonesox belizanus belizanus and Belonesox belizanus maxillosus. We used 1122 bp of cytochrome b and 617 bp of S7-1 DNA to conduct a phylogeographical study of Belonesox, aiming to examine the genetic distinctiveness of these taxa and other populations of Belonesox throughout the range. Bayesian phylogenetic and haplotype analyses indicated that B. b. maxillosus is not distinctive from other northern populations of Belonesox. However, a distinct phylogeographical break is evident near the Rio Grande in southern Belize. One clade comprises the putative B. b. maxillosus and all populations sampled north of the Rio Grande. The other clade comprises the Rio Grande and all populations south thereof. Fossil-calibrated divergence time estimates suggest that isolation of the northern and southern lineages of Belonesox occurred approximately 14.1 Mya. The phylogeographical structure recovered in the present study is interesting, considering that relatively few studies have examined molecular variation across this portion of Middle America in a time-calibrated framework. Furthermore, the present study suggests that more work is needed to adequately understand the factors that have shaped diversity of this region. © 2013 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2013, 109, 848–860.