Diversity of Spined Loaches From Asia Minor in a Phylogenetic Context (Teleostei: Cobitidae)
Özeren, Cevher S.
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Accurate determination of species diversity in areas of high endemicity, particularly those lacking comprehensive systematic knowledge, represents a challenge for both taxonomists and conservationists. This need is particularly evident in areas greatly affected by anthropogenic disturbances such as the Eastern Mediterranean and its freshwater environments. To improve our knowledge of Eastern Mediterranean freshwater fishes, we phylogenetically studied Western Palearctic Cobitis species, focusing on those found in Turkey. Overall, our results provide a robust framework to assess the number of species of Cobitis. Phylogenetic reconstructions based on mitochondrial (cyt b) and nuclear (RAG1) sequences show seven major clades (Clades 1–7) grouping all Western Palearctic Cobitis species, except C. melanoleuca. In general, each major clade comprises Cobitis species that inhabit geographically close areas and have similar secondary sexual characters. Multiple divergent lineages were identified in our analyses, some of which were highly divergent such as the ones inhabiting Turkish freshwaters. Moreover, in some analyses, several of the identified lineages were incongruent with a priori defined species. Furthermore, our analyses identified eight potentially new candidate species, six that had been suggested in previous studies and two that are reported here for the first time. Our results reveal Turkey as the area with the greatest diversity of spined loaches in the Mediterranean.