Multiple cryptic species in the blue-spotted maskray (Myliobatoidei: Dasyatidae: Neotrygon spp.) : an update

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 15
  • SDG 14
  • Abstract:

    Previous investigations have uncovered divergent mitochondrial clades within the blue-spotted maskray, previously Neotrygon kuhlii (Müller and Henle). The hypothesis that the blue-spotted maskray may consist of a complex of multiple cryptic species has been proposed, and four species have been recently described or resurrected. To test the multiple cryptic species hypothesis, we investigated the phylogenetic relationships and coalescence patterns of mitochondrial sequences in a sample of 127 new individuals from the Indian Ocean and the Coral Triangle region, sequenced at both the CO1 and cytochrome b loci. The maximum-likelihood (ML) tree of concatenated CO1 + cytochrome b gene sequences, rooted by the New Caledonian maskray N. trigonoides, yielded 9 strongly supported, main clades. Puillandre's ABGD algorithm detected gaps in nucleotide distance consistent with the ML phylogeny. The general mixed Yule-coalescent algorithm partitioned the dataset into putative species generally consistent with the ML phylogeny. Nuclear markers generally confirmed that distinct mitochondrial clades correspond to genetically isolated lineages. The nine main lineages identified by ML analysis were geographically distributed in a parapatric fashion, indicating reproductive isolation. The hypothesis of multiple cryptic species is thus validated.