River capture is potentially a key geomorphological driver of range expansion and cladogenesis in freshwater-limited taxa. While previous studies of freshwater fish, in particular, have indicated strong relationships between historical river connections and phylogeographic pattern, their analyses have been restricted to single taxa and geological hypotheses were typically constructed a posteriori. Here we assess the broader significance of river capture among taxa by testing multiple species for the genetic signature of a recent river capture event in New Zealand. During the Quaternary an upper tributary of the Clarence River system was diverted into the headwaters of the Wairau River catchment. Mitochondrial DNA (control region and cytochrome b) sequencing of two native galaxiid fishes (Galaxias vulgaris and Galaxias divergens) supports headwater exchange: populations from the Clarence and Wairau Rivers are closely related sister-groups, whereas samples from the geographically intermediate Awatere River are genetically divergent. The upland bully Gobiomorphus breviceps (Eleotridae), in contrast, lacks a genetic signature of the capture event. We hypothesize that there is an increased likelihood of observing genetic signatures from river capture events when they facilitate range expansion, as is inferred for the two galaxiid taxa studied here. When river capture merely translocates genetic lineages among established populations, by contrast, we suggest that the genetic signature of capture is less likely to be retained, as might be inferred for G. breviceps. Rates of molecular evolution calibrated against this recent event were elevated relative to traditional estimates, consistent with the contribution of polymorphisms to branch lengths at shallow phylogenetic levels prior to fixation by purifying selection and drift.
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Vol. 60 • No. 5