Revised classification of the righteye flounders (Teleostei: Pleuronectidae) based on multilocus phylogeny with complete taxon sampling

Kirill A Vinnikov, Robert C Thomson, Thomas A Munroe
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 2018, 125: 147-162
Members of the family Pleuronectidae are common representatives of the marine benthic fauna inhabiting northern regions of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The most recent comprehensive classification of the family, based entirely on morphological synapomorphies, recognized five subfamilies, 23 genera, and 61 extant species. However, several subsequent molecular studies have shown that many synapomorphic characters discovered in the morphological study might represent homoplasies, thereby questioning the reliance on these characters with the warning that they may provide misleading information for testing other morphology-based evolutionary hypotheses. In the present study, we propose a comprehensive taxonomic reassessment of the family Pleuronectidae based on the molecular phylogeny reconstructed from four nuclear and three mitochondrial loci and represented by complete taxon sampling of all but one valid species currently assigned to this family. To check for robustness of the phylogenetic hypothesis, we analyzed the effect of base compositional heterogeneity on phylogenetic signal for each locus and compared six different gene partitioning schemes. The final dataset, comprising 14 partitions and 154 individuals, was used to reconstruct phylogenetic trees in RAxML, MrBayes and BEAST2. Alternative topologies for several questionable nodes were compared using Bayes factors. The topology with the highest marginal likelihood was selected as the final phylogenetic tree for inferring pleuronectid relationships and character evolution. Based on our results, we recognize the Pleuronectidae comprising five subfamilies, 24 genera and 59 species. Our new phylogeny comprises five major monophyletic groups within the family, which we define as the subfamilies within the family: Atheresthinae, Pleuronichthyinae, Microstominae, Hippoglossinae and Pleuronectinae. Taxonomic composition of most of these subfamilies is different from that proposed in previous classifications. We also re-assess hypotheses proposed in earlier studies regarding intra-relationships of species of each lineage. Results of the current study contribute to better understanding of the evolutionary relationships of pleuronectid flatfishes based on molecular evidence, and they also provide the framework towards future comprehensive morphological revision of constituent lineages within the family Pleuronectidae.

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