Consistent with the limited dispersal capacity of most troglobitic animals, almost all Lucifuga cavefish species have very narrow geographic distribution in Cuba. However, one species, L. dentata, has a wide but disjointed distribution over 300 km in the west of the island. In order to estimate the relative role of vicariance and dispersal in the unexpected L. dentata distribution, we obtained partial sequences of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) cytochrome b (cytb) gene and control region (CR), and then applied Approximate Bayesian Computation (ABC), based on the identification of five genetic and geographic congruent groups of populations. The process that best explains the distribution of genetic diversity in this species is sequential range expansion from east Matanzas to the western Pinar del Rio provinces, followed by isolation of groups of populations. We found relative high haplotype diversity and low nucleotide diversity in all but the Havana group, which has high values for both diversity parameters, suggesting that this group has been demographically stable over time. For two groups of populations (Cayuco and Bolondron), the mismatch distribution analyses suggests past demographic expansion. In the case of the Cayuco region, the star like relationships of haplotypes in the network suggests a recent founding event, congruent with other evidence indicating that this is the most recently colonized region. Over all, the results suggest that a combination of habitat availability, temporal interconnections, and possibly the biological properties of this species, may have enabled its dispersal and range expansion compared to other species of the genus, which are more geographically restricted.
Centro de Investigaciones Marinas, Universidad de La Habana, Calle 16, No. 114 entre 1ra y 3ra, Miramar, Playa, La Habana, 11300, Cuba.