Integrated genetic and morphological data support eco-evolutionary divergence of Angolan and South African populations of Diplodus hottentotus

M. P. Gwilliam, A. C. Winkler, W. M. Potts, C. V. Santos, W. H. H. Sauer, Paul Shaw, Niall McKeown

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The genus Diplodus presents multiple cases of taxonomic conjecture. Among these the D. cervinus complex was previously described as comprising three subspecies that are now regarded as separate species: Diplodus cervinus, Diplodus hottentotus and Diplodus omanensis. Diplodus hottentotus exhibits a clear break in its distribution around the Benguela Current system, prompting speculation that Angolan and South African populations flanking this area may be isolated and warrant formal taxonomic distinction. This study reports the first integrated genetic [mitochondrial (mt)DNA and nuclear microsatellite] and morphological (morphometric, meristic and colouration) study to assess patterns of divergence between populations in the two regions. High levels of cytonuclear divergence between the populations support a prolonged period of genetic isolation, with the sharing of only one mtDNA haplotype (12 haplotypes were fully sorted between regions) attributed to retention of ancestral polymorphism. Fish from the two regions were significantly differentiated at a number of morphometric (69·5%) and meristic (46%) characters. In addition, Angolan and South African fish exhibited reciprocally diagnostic colouration patterns that were more similar to Mediterranean and Indian Ocean congeners, respectively. Based on the congruent genetic and phenotypic diversity we suggest that the use of hottentotus, whether for full species or subspecies status, should be restricted to South African D. cervinus to reflect their status as a distinct species-like unit, while the relationship between Angolan and Atlantic–Mediterranean D. cervinus will require further demo-genetic analysis. This study highlights the utility of integrated genetic and morphological approaches to assess taxonomic diversity within the biogeographically dynamic Benguela Current region
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1163-1176
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Fish Biology
Issue number4
Early online date01 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 01 Apr 2018


  • fish
  • meristic
  • microsatellite
  • mitochandrial
  • morphometric
  • taxonomy


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