The genus Basilichthys (Teleostei: Atherinopsidae) revisited along its Chilean distribution range (21° to 40° S) using variation in morphologyand mtDNA
There is still doubt as to the number of species of the freshwater Chilean ichthyofauna, 64 % of which have conservation problems. One of the groups is that of the silversides of the genus Basilichthys. Three morphological species of this genus have been described in Chile with disjoint distributions: Basilichthys semotilus, B. microlepidotus and B. australis; the latter two overlap in distribution only in the Aconcagua River and are not easily distinguishable by morphological and meristic characters. In order to evaluate the efficacy of identification of these species by molecular techniques, we analyzed the sequence of 9 % of the mitochondrial DNA (Control Region and COI) of individuals from the Loa River (21°41' S) to the Valdivia River (39°50' S), adding meristic features for B. microlepidotus and B. australis in order to study population variation to clarify the taxonomy of the native species of the genus. The phylogenetic analysis showed that the individuals of Basilichthys semotilus form an haplogroup separated from the other species of the genus; however, B. australis and B. microlepidotus form a monophyletic group that shares the most common haplotypes. An analysis of meristic information showed no statistically significant differences in the number of lateral line scales or number of rays in the fins between B. microlepidotus and B. australis. These results do not support the current classification for the latter two species; there appears to be one group in the extreme north of the country (Basilichthys semotilus) and a second group in central Chile which should be called B. microlepidotus. This information will be useful to review the conservation status of the Chilean fauna.