Molecular phylogeny, analysis of character evolution, and submersible collections enable a new classification of a diverse group of gobies (Teleostei: Gobiidae: Nes subgroup), including nine new species and four new genera
The Nes subgroup of the Gobiosomatini (Teleostei: Gobiiformes: Gobiidae) is an ecologically diverse clade of fishes endemic to the tropical western Atlantic and eastern Pacific oceans. It has been suggested that morphological characters in gobies tend to evolve via reduction and loss associated with miniaturization, and this, coupled with the parallel evolution of adaptations to similar microhabitats, may lead to homoplasy and ultimately obscure our ability to discern phylogenetic relationships using morphological characters alone. This may be particularly true for the Nes subgroup of gobies, where several genera that are diagnosed by ‘reductive characters’ have been shown to be polyphyletic. Here we present the most comprehensive phylogeny to date of the Nes subgroup using mitochondrial and nuclear sequence data. We then evaluate the congruence between the distribution of morphological characters and our molecular tree using maximum-likelihood ancestral state reconstruction, and test for phylogenetic signal in characters using Pagel’s k tree transformations (Nature, 401, 1999 and 877). Our results indicate that all of the characters previously used to diagnose genera of the Nes subgroup display some degree of homoplasy with respect to our molecular tree; however, many characters display considerable phylogenetic signal and thus may be useful in diagnosing genera when used in combination with other characters. We present a new classification for the group in which all genera are monophyletic and in most cases diagnosed by combinations of morphological characters. The new classification includes four new genera and nine new species described here, many of which were collected from rarely sampled deep Caribbean reefs using manned submersibles. The group now contains 38 species in the genera Carrigobius gen. nov., Chriolepis, Eleotrica, Gobulus, Gymneleotris, Nes, Paedovaricus gen. nov., Pinnichthys gen. nov., Psilotris, and Varicus. Lastly, we provide a key to all named species of the Nes subgroup along with photographs and illustrations to aid in identification.