It has hitherto been unknown whether the paradise fish Macropodus opercularis that inhabits the Ryukyu Archipelago, Japan, is native to the region or was introduced. This study examined the genetic identity of fish from five islands in the Ryukyu Archipelago (Okinoerabu, Okinawa, Yagaji, Kume, and Minamidaito islands) and compared it with those from Taiwan Island, mainland China, and Hainan Island. Analyses of the mtDNA control (760 bp) and cytb (660 bp) regions showed that haplotypes of specimens from the Ryukyu Archipelago were the same as or were very similar (with a 1- or 2-bp difference) to those from Taiwan. In addition, haplotypes from the Ryukyu Archipelago also showed lower genetic diversity than those from Taiwan Island, mainland China, and Hainan Island. These results suggest a high likelihood that the fish in the Ryukyu Archipelago were artificially introduced from Taiwan. However, the possibility that the fish is indigenous to the Ryukyu Archipelago cannot be completely ruled out, because some haplotypes and a clade from the Ryukyu Archipelago have not been found in the other areas. Regardless of its origin, we emphasize the importance of the conservation of the paradise fish in the Ryukyu Archipelago as an indicator of the threatened wetland environment as well as for its cultural value.
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