To assess the historical biogeography of freshwater topminnows in the genus Poeciliopsis, we examined sequence variation in two mitochondrial genes, cytochrome b (1140 bp) and NADH subunit 2 (1047 bp). This widespread fish genus is distributed from Arizona to western Colombia, and nearly half of its 21 named species have distributions that border on the geologically active Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt (TMVB), a region that defines the uplifted plateau (Mesa Central) of Mexico. We used the parametric bootstrap method to test the hypothesis that a single vicariant event associated with the TMVB was responsible for divergence of taxa found to the north and south of this boundary. Because the single-event hypothesis was rejected as highly unlikely, we hypothesize that at least two geological events were responsible for divergence of these species. The first (8–16 million years ago) separated ancestral populations that were distributed across the present TMVB region. A second event (2.8–6.4 million years ago) was associated with northward dispersal and subsequent vicariance of two independent southern lineages across the TMVB. The geological history of this tectonically and volcanically active region is discussed and systematic implications for the genus are outlined.
Corresponding Editor: L. Bernatchez