Molecular phylogenetic relationships and the coevolution of placentotrophy and superfetation in Poecilia (Poeciliidae: Cyprinodontiformes)

Robert W. Meredith, Marcelo N. Pires, David N. Reznick, Mark S. Springer

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Members of Poeciliidae are used as model organisms for experimental studies on natural and sexual selection, and comparative studies of life-history evolution. The latter have demonstrated multiple origins of both superfetation and placentotrophy within Poeciliidae. Most recently, placentotrophy has been described in five species of Poecilia (Pamphorichthys), but only one of these (P. hasemani) shows evidence of superfetation. Here, we use a molecular phylogeny based on concatenated nuclear and mitochondrial gene sequences to test hypotheses of correlated evolution between superfetation and placentotrophy in Poecilia. Taxon sampling included all species in the subgenera Micropoecilia and Pamphorichthys for which the presence or absence of placentotrophy and superfetation have been determined, as well as representatives of all other Poecilia subgenera (Acanthophacelus, Limia, Mollienesia, Poecilia, Pseudolimia). Phylogenetic analyses were performed with maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood, and Bayesian methods; ancestral states for life-history characters were reconstructed with parsimony and SIMMAP; correlation analyses were performed with SIMMAP; and divergence times were estimated using a relaxed molecular clock. All subgenera in Poecilia were recovered as monophyletic. The basal split in Poecilia is between P. (Acanthophacelus). +. P. (Micropoecilia) and the other five subgenera. In the latter clade, P. (Poecilia) is the sister-group to the remaining four subgenera. Within P. (Pamphorichthys), all analyses with the combined data set recovered P. (Pamphorichthys) araguaiensis as the sister taxon to P. (Pamphorichthys) hollandi, and P. (Pamphorichthys) scalpridens as the sister taxon to P. (Pamphorichthys) minor. P. (Pamphorichthys) hasemani was either the sister taxon to P. (Pamphorichthys) hollandi+. P. (Pamphorichthys) minor (maximum likelihood, Bayesian) or the sister taxon to all other Pamphorichthys species (maximum parsimony). Ancestral state reconstructions suggest that placentotrophy and superfetation evolved on the same branch in P. (Micropoecilia), whereas placentotrophy evolved before superfetation in P. (Pamphorichthys). SIMMAP analyses indicate a statistically significant association between placentotrophy and superfetation. Within P. (Micropoecilia) both placentotrophy and superfetation evolved in ≤4 million years. Within P. (Pamphorichthys), superfetation evolved in ≤9 million years on the P. (Pamphorichthys) hasemani branch, and placentotrophy evolved in ≤10 million years in the common ancestor of this subgenus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-157
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Correlated evolution
  • Cyprinodontiformes
  • Pamphorichthys
  • Placentotrophy
  • Poecilia
  • Poeciliidae
  • Superfetation


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