Get access

Origins, ages and population histories: comparative phylogeography of endemic Hawaiian butterflyfishes (genus Chaetodon)


Correspondence: Matthew T. Craig, Department of Marine Science, University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, PO 9000, Mayagüez, PR 00681, USA.


Aim  To investigate phylogeographic relationships, genetic connectivity and potential colonization routes for Hawaii’s endemic butterflyfishes (family Chaetodontidae).

Location  The Hawaiian Archipelago (central Pacific Ocean).

Methods  Molecular genetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA from three species of endemic Hawaiian butterflyfishes (Chaetodon multicinctus, = 280; Chaetodon miliaris, = 408; Chaetodon fremblii, = 358) sampled from across the Hawaiian Archipelago was used in a suite of population genetic analyses to examine population histories and calculate coalescence times. We review a recent phylogenetic hypothesis for the Chaetodontidae and optimize ancestral distributions to nodes as a means of inferring colonization pathways to Hawaii.

Results  We found no evidence for population subdivisions across their ranges for any of the three endemic Hawaiian butterflyfish species (ΦST ≈ 0; > 0.05 in each case). Coalescence analyses revealed that C. multicinctus, C. miliaris and C. fremblii date to genetic bottlenecks of c. 12 ka (95% confidence interval of τ, 0–46,732 years ago), c. 74 ka (95% confidence interval of τ, 62,918–105,699 years ago) and c. 301 ka (95% confidence interval of τ, 88,981–478,495 years ago), respectively. We found that the West Pacific appears to be the ancestral source for two of three independent colonization events to Hawaii (leading to the speciation of C. miliaris and C. fremblii). The third colonization of Hawaii (leading to the divergence of C. multicinctus) is ambiguous, but may have involved island-hopping from the South Pacific via the Line Islands.

Main conclusions  Our results are consistent with the growing body of data indicating that ecological specialists may be more susceptible to severe population bottlenecks during large-scale climatic variation on evolutionary time-scales. The isolation of the Hawaiian Archipelago presents challenges for colonization by even the most highly dispersive marine organisms, and routes of colonization by endemic butterflyfishes show a variable pattern, indicating that there may be several pathways, both spatially and temporally, for marine fauna to colonize Hawaii. Hawaiian endemic butterflyfishes appear to represent genetically homogeneous populations across the archipelago.