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An empirical test of freshwater vicariance via river capture

Authors


Dr C. P. Burridge, Fax: +64 3 479 7584; E-mail: chris.burridge@stonebow.otago.ac.nz

Abstract

River capture is a geomorphological process through which stream sections are displaced from one catchment to another, and it may represent a dominant facilitator of interdrainage transfer and cladogenesis in freshwater-limited taxa. However, few studies have been conducted in a manner to explicitly test the biological significance of river capture. Here we present a multispecies phylogeographical analysis to test whether the nonmigratory fish fauna of the Von River (South Island, New Zealand) is the product of a well-documented, Late Quaternary capture of a section of the Oreti River (Southland drainage). Specifically, we predict that nonmigratory fishes of the Von River will exhibit closer genetic affinities with those of Southland, rather than those of the Clutha system, into which the Von River presently drains. Mitochondrial DNA phylogeography (control region and cytochrome b sequence data) and analysis of nuclear orthologues of mtDNA sequences indicate that ‘flathead’Galaxias of the Von River (n = 31, three sites) have greatest genetic affinities with those of Southland (Galaxias ‘southern’, n = 216, 38 sites), rather than with those of the Clutha River (Galaxias sp. ‘D’, n = 73, 32 sites). Likewise, Von River ‘roundhead’Galaxias (n = 52, four sites) have greatest genetic affinities with those of Southland drainages (Galaxias gollumoides, n = 223, 58 sites), rather than with those of the Clutha River (Galaxias pullus, Galaxias anomalus, Galaxias gollumoides of the Nevis tributary; n = 68, 32 sites). These findings are consistent with our predictions that genetic affinities of the nonmigratory fish fauna in the Von River would reflect past, rather than present, drainage connections. Consequently, river capture is responsible for the nonmigratory fish fauna of the Von River. In a broader context, river capture has frequently influenced the distribution of genetic lineages among catchments in New Zealand freshwater-limited fish, and its biogeographical significance may have been underestimated in other regions.

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