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ESR 46:205-214 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01152

Pleistocene paleodrainages explain the phylogeographic structure of Malaysian populations of Asian arowana better than their chromatic variation

Norli Fauzani Mohd Abu Hassan Alshari1,2, Sébastien Lavoué1,*, Mohamad Asyraf Mohamad Sulaiman3, Md Zain Khaironizam1, Siti Azizah Mohd Nor2, Fazimah Aziz3

1School of Biological Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang 11800, Malaysia
2Institute of Marine Biotechnology, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Kuala Nerus 21030, Malaysia
3Department of Aquatic Science, Faculty of Resource Science and Technology, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, 94300 Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, Malaysia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Little is known about the genetic structure and phylogeography of Asian arowana (Scleropages spp.). Natural variation in body color has led to the informal distinction of chromatic varieties, but previous studies that attempted to genetically characterize these varieties did not comprehensively cover their geographical distribution. In Malaysia, about 10 drainage-restricted populations of Asian arowana are known that are currently classified into 2 species and 3 color varieties. In this study, we used 3 molecular markers to test 2 hypotheses explaining the relationships among 9 of these populations. The first hypothesis postulates that each color variety forms a monophyletic group, whereas the second hypothesis assumes that Pleistocene paleodrainages shaped the distribution of these populations. We found that the overall genetic variability is low within Asian arowana and that the green variety is non-monophyletic, with other varieties nested within. Instead, the populations of Malaysia belong to 3 genetic lineages that are allopatrically distributed. The ages and distribution of 2 of these lineages are consistent with past connections through paleodrainages, whereas the last lineage is restricted to Central Sarawak. Overall, our results reject the first hypothesis, demonstrating that the geographic origin of specimens is a better phylogenetic indicator than their body color. This study highlights the importance of Malaysia in the conservation of Asian arowana, because it is the only country in which populations of all 3 main genetic lineages occur.


KEY WORDS: Scleropages formosus · Scleropages inscriptus · Sundaland · Phylogeography · Conservation


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Cite this article as: Alshari NFMAH, Lavoué S, Sulaiman MAM, Khaironizam MZ, Mohd Nor SA, Aziz F (2021) Pleistocene paleodrainages explain the phylogeographic structure of Malaysian populations of Asian arowana better than their chromatic variation. Endang Species Res 46:205-214. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01152

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