Patterns in species richness and endemism of European freshwater fish


*Correspondence: Yorick Reyjol, Département de Chimie-Biologie, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Québec Canada. E-mail:


Aim  To analyse the patterns in species richness and endemism of the native European riverine fish fauna, in the light of the Messinian salinity crisis and the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM).

Location  European continent.

Methods  After gathering native fish faunistic lists of 406 hydrographical networks, we defined large biogeographical regions with homogenous fish fauna, based on a hierarchical cluster analysis. Then we analysed and compared the patterns in species richness and endemism among these regions, as well as species–area relationships.

Results  Among the 233 native species present in the data set, the Cyprinidae family was strongly dominant (> 50% of the total number of species). Seven biogeographical regions were defined: Western Peri-Mediterranea, Central Peri-Mediterranea, Eastern Peri-Mediterranea, Ponto-Caspian Europe, Northern Europe, Central Europe and Western Europe. The highest regional species richness was observed for Central Peri-Mediterranea and Ponto-Caspian Europe. The highest endemic richness was found in Central Peri-Mediterranea. Species–area relationships were characterized by high slope values for Peri-Mediterranean Europe and low values for Central and Western Europe.

Main conclusions  The results were in agreement with the ‘Lago Mare’ hypothesis explaining the specificity of Peri-Mediterranean fish fauna, as well as with the history of recolonization of Central and Western Europe from Ponto-Caspian Europe following the LGM. The results also agreed with the mechanisms of speciation and extinction influencing fish diversity in hydrographical networks. We advise the use of the seven biogeographical regions for further studies, and suggest considering Peri-Mediterranean Europe and Ponto-Caspian Europe as ‘biodiversity hotspots’ for European riverine fish.