Journal Article

Evidence for late Pleistocene origin of Astyanax mexicanus cavefish

Fumey, J., Hinaux, H., Noirot, C., Thermes, C., Rétaux, S. and Casane, D.

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BMC Evolutionary Biology
Abstract Background: Cavefish populations belonging to the Mexican tetra species Astyanax mexicanus are outstanding models to study the tempo and mode of adaptation to a radical environmental change. They are currently assigned to two main groups, the so-called “old” and “new” lineages, which would have populated several caves independently and at different times. However, we do not have yet accurate estimations of the time frames of evolution of these populations. Results: We reanalyzed the geographic distribution of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA polymorphisms and we found that these data do not support the existence of two cavefish lineages. Using IMa2, a program that allows dating population divergence in addition to demographic parameters, we found that microsatellite polymorphism strongly supports a very recent origin of cave populations (< 20,000 years). We identified a large number of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in transcript sequences of pools of embryos (Pool-seq) belonging to Pachón cave population and a surface population from Texas. Based on summary statistics that can be computed with this SNP data set together with simulations of evolution of SNP polymorphisms in two recently isolated populations, we looked for sets of demographic parameters that allow the computation of summary statistics with simulated populations that are similar to the ones with the sampled populations. In most simulations for which we could find a good fit between the summary statistics of observed and simulated data, the best fit occurred when the divergence between simulated populations was less than 30,000 years. Conclusions: Although it is often assumed that some cave populations have a very ancient origin, a recent origin of these populations is strongly supported by our analyses of independent sets of nuclear DNA polymorphism. Moreover, the observation of two divergent haplogroups of mitochondrial and nuclear genes with different geographic distributions support a recent admixture of two divergent surface populations, before the isolation of cave populations. If cave populations are indeed only several thousand years old, many phenotypic changes observed in cavefish would thus have mainly involved the fixation of genetic variants present in surface fish populations and within a very short period of time. Keywords: Cavefish, Adaptation, High-throughput sequencing, Microsatellites, SNPs, Molecular dating
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