Phylogenetic relationships among Thunnus species inferred from rDNA ITS1 sequence

S. Chow*, T. Nakagawa, N. Suzuki, H. Takeyama, T. Matsunaga

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Intra and interspecific nucleotide sequence variation of rDNA first internal transcribed spacer (ITS1) was analysed using all eight species of the genus Thunnus plus two out-group species within the same family, skipjack tuna Katsuwonus pelamis and striped bonito Sarda orientalis. Intraspecific nucleotide sequence variation in ITS1, including intra-genomic variation, was low, ranging from 0.003 to 0.014 [Kimura's two parameter distance (K2P)], whereas variation between species within the genus Thunnus ranged from 0.009 to 0.05. The Atlantic and Pacific northern bluefin tunas Thunnus thynnus thynnus and Thunnus thynnus orientalis, recently proposed to be distinct species, were found to share nearly identical ITS1 sequences (mean K2P = 0.006) well within the range of intraspecific variation. The northern bluefin tuna appeared to be a sister group to albacore Thunnus alalunga, with all other Thunnus species in a distinct clade. The ITS1 phylogeny was consistent with mtDNA phylogeny in clustering the three tropical Thunnus species (T. albacares, T. atlanticus and T. tonggol). Southern bluefin Thunnus maccoyii and bigeye Thunnus obesus tunas showed a closer affinity to this tropical tuna group than to the northern bluefin tuna and albacore. The molecular data supported mitochondrial introgression between species and contradicted morphological subdivision of the genus into two subgenera Neothunnus and Thunnus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-35
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Fish Biology
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
Publication statusPublished - 2006 Mar
Externally publishedYes


  • Phylogeny
  • Tuna
  • mtDNA
  • rDNA ITS1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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