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Journey to the West: Trans-Pacific Historical Biogeography of Fringehead Blennies in the Genus Neoclinus (Teleostei: Blenniiformes).


Several temperate marine taxa of the northern hemisphere follow a trans-Pacific biogeographic track with representatives on either side of the intervening boreal waters. Shelter-dwelling blenniiform fishes of the genus Neoclinus exhibit this trans-Pacific distribution pattern with three species in the eastern North Pacific and eight species in the western North Pacific. We reconstructed the phylogeny of the Neocliniini (Neoclinus and the monotypic Mccoskerichthys) using six genetic markers: four mitochondrial genes (COI, cytochrome b, 12S and 16S), and two nuclear genes (RAG-1, TMO-4C4). Ancestral state reconstruction and molecular clock dating were used to explore hypothetical ancestral distributions and area relationships, and to estimate divergent times within this group. The monophyly of the genus Neoclinus, and the reciprocal monophyly of the eastern Pacific and western Pacific lineages were supported. Available evidence, including the eastern Pacific and western Atlantic occurrence of a New World clade of blennioid fishes that includes this lineage, supports the origin of the Neocliniini in the eastern Pacific with a single divergence event to the west across the North Pacific by the ancestor of the western Pacific clade. Estimated divergence time of the eastern and western Pacific clades of Neoclinus was 24.14 million year ago, which falls during the Oligocene epoch. Estimated times of divergence in other trans-Pacific lineages of marine fishes vary widely, from recent Pleistocene events to as early as 34 mya.

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