Incipient speciation within a subgenus of rockfish (Sebastosomus) provides evidence of recent radiations within an ancient species flock

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The high frequency of speciation events associated with species flocks (i.e., radiations of closely related species) provides invaluable insight into the speciation process. Investigations of the speciation process in the marine environment are rare, and therefore, the genetic analysis of the rockfish genus Sebastes, considered an ancient marine species flock, provides an opportunity to investigate this process in the sea. Using both mitochondrial and nuclear markers, we analyzed five closely related species within the rockfish subgenus Sebastosomus. Our goal was to understand the evolutionary history and genetic relationships among species within this group and to provide evidence of recent speciation events within the subgenus. In the genetic analysis of the subgenus, we found different stages of the speciation process, with greater genetic divergences among three of the five species, evidence of recent divergence between two of the five species, Sebastes entomelas and S. mystinus, and significant genetic divergence between two lineages within S. mystinus revealing a signature of incipient speciation. We also found frequency differences of the two S. mystinus lineages among sample locations and found no evidence of introgression between the lineages at the location where both coexist. Although Sebastes is an example of an ancient species flock, this study provides evidence of ongoing speciation within the genus and reveals stages of this process from incipient to distinct species.

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