Comparisons across multiple taxa can often clarify the histories of biogeographic regions. In particular, historic barriers to movement should have affected multiple species and, thus, result in a pattern of concordant intraspecific genetic divisions among species. A striking example of such comparative phylogeography is the recent observation that populations of many small mammals and reptiles living on the Baja California peninsula have a large genetic break between northern and southern peninsular populations. In the present study, I demonstrate that five species of near-shore fishes living on the Baja coastline of the Gulf of California share this genetic pattern. The simplest explanation for this concordant genetic division within both terrestrial and marine vertebrates is that the Baja Peninsula was fragmented by a Plio-Pleistocene marine seaway and that this seaway posed a substantial barrier to movement for near-shore fishes. For some fish species, the signal of this vicariance in mtDNA has been eroded by gene flow and is not evident with classic, equilibrium measures of population structure. Yet, significant divisions are apparent in coalescent analyses that jointly estimate divergence with gene flow. The genetic divisions within Gulf of California fishes also coincide with recognized biogeographic regions based on fish community composition and several environmental factors. It is likely that adaptation to regional environments and present-day oceanographic circulation limit gene exchange between biogeographic regions and help maintain evidence of past vicariance.
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Vol. 59 • No. 12