© Copyright 2020 Nasser et al. The Yazoo Darter, Etheostoma raneyi (Percidae), is an imperiled freshwater fish species endemic to tributaries of the Yocona and Little Tallahatchie rivers of the upper Yazoo River basin, in northern Mississippi, USA. The two populations are allopatric, isolated by unsuitable lowland habitat between the two river drainages. Relevant literature suggests that populations in the Yocona River represent an undescribed species, but a lack of data prevents a thorough evaluation of possible diversity throughout the range of the species. Our goals were to estimate phylogenetic relationships of the Yazoo Darter across its distribution and identify cryptic diversity for conservation management purposes. Maximum likelihood (ML) phylogenetic analyses of the mitochondrial cytochrome b (cytb) gene returned two reciprocally monophyletic clades representing the two river drainages with high support. Bayesian analysis of cytb was consistent with the ML analysis but with low support for the Yocona River clade. Analyses of the nuclear S7 gene yielded unresolved relationships among individuals in the Little Tallahatchie River drainage with mostly low support, but returned a monophyletic clade for individuals from the Yocona River drainage with high support. No haplotypes were shared between the drainages for either gene. Additional cryptic diversity within the two drainages was not indicated. Estimated divergence between Yazoo Darters in the two drainages occurred during the Pleistocene (<1 million years ago) and was likely linked to repeated spatial shifts in suitable habitat and changes in watershed configurations during glacial cycles. Individuals from the Yocona River drainage had lower genetic diversity consistent with the literature. Our results indicate that Yazoo Darters in the Yocona River drainage are genetically distinct and that there is support for recognizing Yazoo Darter populations in the Yocona River drainage as a new species under the unified species concept.
Sterling KA, Nielsen SV, Brown AJ, Warren, Jr. ML, Noonan BP. 2020. Cryptic diversity among Yazoo Darters (Percidae: Etheostoma raneyi) in disjunct watersheds of northern Mississippi. PeerJ 8:e9014 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.9014