In order to elucidate phylogenetic relationships and intraspecific variations and to infer the evolutionary process of loaches of the genus Lefua, we analyzed nucleotide sequences of the mitochondrial D-loop region of 100 specimens obtained from 97 localities in Japan and Korea. The genus Lefua includes three described species, L. nikkonis, L. echigonia, and L. costata and an undescribed species, Lefua sp. Our results showed that each species of Lefua formed a monophyletic group, indicating clearly that Lefua species can be genetically distinguished from one another. Lefua nikkonis was the most closely related to L. costata, while L. sp. was the most closely related to L. echigonia. Specimens of L. sp. were grouped into two intraspecific populations and specimens of L. echigonia were grouped into six populations. These populations were well separated geographically from one another by mountain ranges and highlands. We estimated the evolutionary time for splitting of the species and intraspecific populations, and speculated on the evolutionary process of the genus Lefua. Species of Lefua are severely threatened. Fundamental genetic information is indispensable for conservation. We presented genetic background in order to protect these threatened loaches.
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