Cutting through the Gordian knot: Unravelling morphological, molecular, and biogeographical patterns in the genus Zapteryx (guitarfish) from the Mexican Pacific

Ana Castillo-Páez, Jonathan Sandoval-Castillo, David Corro-Espinosa, Javier Tovar-Ávila, María Del Pilar Blanco-Parra, Nancy C. Saavedra-Sotelo, Oscar Sosa-Nishizaki, Felipe Gálvan-Magaña, Axayacatl Rocha-Olivares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Defining species boundaries is important not only for the appropriate attribution of life history and ecological traits but also for sustainable fishery management and for the conservation of biodiversity. Problems arise from taxonomic uncertainty and incorrect species delineation leading to historical misidentification. This is the case of Pacific guitarfishes in the genus Zapteryx. We use a molecular phylogenetic approach combining mitochondrial and nuclear loci to investigate genetic variation in fish along the Mexican Pacific coast. Our analyses reveal a lack of nuclear and mitochondrial distinction between rays identified morphologically as banded guitarfish Z exasperata and as southern banded guitarfish Z. xyster, casting doubts on the validity of their current systematics. However, we detected two mitochondrial lineages in accordance with the number of species described for the Pacific: a "northern" lineage corresponding to Z exasperata and a "southern" lineage possibly attributable to Z. xyster. The poorly understood phenotypic plasticity in coloration and size of the evolutionary lineage of Z. exasperata and its apparently wider than currently thought geographic distribution (at least to Oaxaca) are the major sources of confusion regarding the taxonomic and geographic delineation of these nominal species. In light of our findings, eastern Pacific guitarfishes in the genus Zapteryx require a thorough taxonomic revision using morphological and genetic data to unveil what appears to be a complex pattern of diversification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1630-1638
Number of pages9
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Volume74
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017

Keywords

  • Evolutionary lineage
  • Guitarfish
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • RAG1
  • Species delimitation

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