Historical biogeography of fishes from coastal basins of Maranhão State, northeastern Brazil

ABSTRACT The Amazonian ichthyofauna is one of the most diverse in the world, yet fishes from the adjacent coastal basins of Maranhão State in Northeastern Brazil remain poorly known. We use phylogeographic, community phylogenetic and phylogenetic beta diversity methods to study the biogeographic history of fishes from the coastal basins of Maranhão State. We report a total of 160 fish species from the basins of the Maranhão region, representing a 93% increase over results of previous studies. All the fish species assemblages from Maranhão are polyphyletic, with only a few putative sister species pairs inhabiting the region. The modern watershed divides among Maranhão basins do not form substantial barriers to dispersal for freshwater fish species, and are more effectively modelled as biogeographic islands than as biogeographic provinces. In combination these results suggest that the Maranhão ichthyofauna was assembled under the influence of several macroevolutionary (extinction, dispersal) and landscape evolution processes, during the Miocene and Pliocene, as well as by the modern ecological characteristics of the region. The results indicate that the distinctive geological and climatic conditions and history of Northeastern Brazil strongly constrained the formation of aquatic faunas in coastal basins of Maranhão State.