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Keywords:

  • South America Amazon;
  • fishes;
  • paleogeography;
  • parasites;
  • marine;
  • Himantura;
  • Dasyatidae;
  • Urolophidae

The neotropical freshwater family Potamotrygonidae appears to be the only stingray group that has radiated in a non-marine environment. To assess the affinities of potamotrygonids to other rays, a phylogenetic analysis was undertaken using 39 morphological characters from 18 stingray groups. The single tree produced (CI = 0.80, RI = 0.88) suggests that neotropical freshwater rays are a monophyletic group, and that within Potamotrygonidae, Paratrygon is basal to a clade composed of Plesiotrygon and Potamotrygon. The sister group to potamotrygonids was determined to be amphi-American Himantura—these taxa share synapomorphies of the ventral mandibular musculature and the hyomandibular/mandibular articulation. The topology suggests that potamotrygonids are derived from a freshwater-invading ancestor that was distributed along the northern coast of South America (Pacific and Caribbean) prior to the emergence of the isthmus of Panama. This hypothesis conflicts with parasite-based biogeographic scenarios of a stricdy Pacific origin for potamotrygonids. General systematic results concerning urolophids, dasyatids, and pelagic myliobatoid stingrays are also discussed.