Persistence of neutral polymorphisms in Lake Victoria cichlid fish

Sandra Nagl, Herbert Tichy, Werner E. Mayer, Naoyuki Takahata, Jan Klein

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90 Scopus citations


Phylogenetic trees for groups of closely related species often have different topologies, depending on the genes used. One explanation for the discordant topologies is the persistence of polymorphisms through the speciation phase, followed by differential fixation of alleles in the resulting species. The existence of transspecies polymorphisms has been documented for alleles maintained by balancing selection but not for neutral alleles. In the present study, transspecific persistence of neutral polymorphisms was tested in the endemic haplochromine species flock of Lake Victoria cichlid fish. Putative noncoding region polymorphisms were identified at four randomly selected nuclear loci and tested on a collection of 12 Lake Victoria species and their putative riverine ancestors. At all loci, the same polymorphism was found to be present in nearly all the tested species, both lacustrine and riverine. Different polymorphisms at these loci were found in cichlids of other East African lakes (Malawi and Tanganyika). The Lake Victoria polymorphisms must have therefore arisen after the flocks now inhabiting the three great lakes diverged from one another, but before the riverine ancestors of the Lake Victoria flock colonized the Lake. Calculations based on the mtDNA clock suggest that the polymorphisms have persisted for about 1.4 million years. To maintain neutral polymorphisms for such a long time, the population size must have remained large throughout the entire period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14238-14243
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number24
StatePublished - Nov 24 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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