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Phylogeography of the mottled spinefoot Siganus fuscescens: Pleistocene divergence and limited genetic connectivity across the Philippine archipelago


Rachel G. Ravago-Gotanco,
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Historical isolation during Pleistocene low sea level periods is thought to have contributed to divergence among marine basin populations across the Coral Triangle. In the Philippine archipelago, populations in the South China Sea, Sulu Sea–inland seas, and Philippine Sea-Celebes Sea basins might have been partially isolated. Meanwhile, present-day broadscale oceanographic circulation patterns suggest connectivity between these basins. To evaluate hypotheses regarding the influence of historical and contemporary factors on genetic structure, phylogeographic patterns based on mitochondrial control region sequences for a reef-associated fish, Siganus fuscescens, were analysed. Three distinct lineages were recovered. One lineage was identified as the morphologically similar species Siganus canaliculatus, while two lineages are monophyletic with S. fuscescens. Clade divergence and demographic expansion in S. fuscescens occurred during the Pleistocene. A strong signal of latitudinal structure was detected (ΦCT = 0.188), driven by marked differences in clade distribution: one clade is widely distributed (clade A), while a second clade (clade B) has a restricted northern distribution. Regional structure of clade A is consistent with the basin isolation hypothesis (ΦCT = 0.040) and suggests isolation of the South China Sea (ΦCT = 0.091). Fine-scale structure was observed in the South China Sea and south Philippine Sea, while Sulu Sea and inland seas were unstructured. Genetic structure across multiple spatial scales (archipelagic, regional, and fine-scale within basins) suggests the influence of vicariant barriers and contemporary limits to gene flow in S. fuscescens that may be influenced by oceanographic circulation, geographical distance between available habitats, and latitudinal temperature differences.

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