Molecular Data Reveal Multiple Lineages in Piranhas of the Genus Pygocentrus (Teleostei, Characiformes)
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Carnivorous piranhas are distributed in four serrasalmid genera including Pygocentrus, which inhabit major river basins of South America. While P. cariba and P. piraya are endemics of the Orinoco and SAo Francisco basins, respectively, P. nattereri is widely distributed across the Amazonas, Essequibo, lower Parana, Paraguay, and coastal rivers of northeastern Brazil, with recent records of introductions in Asia. Few studies have focused on the genetic diversity and systematics of Pygocentrus and the putative presence of additional species within P. nattereri has never been the subject of a detailed molecular study. Here we aimed to delimit species of Pygocentrus, test the phylogeographic structure of P. nattereri, and access the origin of introduced specimens of P. nattereri in Asia. Phylogenetic analyses based on a mitochondrial dataset involving maximum-likelihood tree reconstruction, genetic distances, Bayesian analysis, three delimitation approaches, and haplotype analysis corroborate the morphological hypothesis of the occurrence of three species of Pygocentrus. However, we provide here strong evidence that P. nattereri contains at least five phylogeographically-structured lineages in the Amazonas, Guapore (type locality), Itapecuru, Parana/Paraguay, and Tocantins/Araguaia river basins. We finally found that the introduced specimens in Asia consistently descend from the lineage of P. nattereri from the main Rio Amazonas. These results contribute to future research aimed to detect morphological variation that may occur in those genetic lineages of Pygocentrus.