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© The Willi Hennig Society 2014. Although attempts to understand Central American freshwater fish provincialism date to the 1960s, early efforts lacked the wealth of distributional data now available. Biogeographic work on Central American freshwater fishes has been largely descriptive and regional, and lacked a broader synthesis. Here we use parsimony analysis of endemicity (PAE) to elucidate faunistic relationships between major drainages and to delineate areas of endemism. We then perform a Brooks parsimony analysis (BPA) on the resulting areas. The PAE recovered a primary division between four Pacific and six Atlantic slope areas of endemism. In contrast, the BPA recovered two Central American geographic clades, one sharing a history with North America and the other with South America. Fish diversity is uneven across Central America, with greater diversity in areas adjacent to the more species-rich regions of North and South America. In northern and nuclear Central America, the paucity of ostariophysan freshwater fishes such as catfishes and characins (groups that dominate adjacent regions) contrasts with high species richness of poeciliids and cichlids. Results of this study are consistent with Myer's hypothesis that poeciliids and cichlids dispersed to Northern or Nuclear Middle America early in the Cenozoic, long before the Plio-Pleistocene rise of the Isthmus of Panama.

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