A Delineation of Nuclear Middle America Biogeographical Provinces Based on River Basin Faunistic Similarities

Brian R. Kreiser, University of Southern Mississippi
Jacob F. Schaefer, University of Southern Mississippi


The biogeographical patterns of the obligate freshwater fishes of Nuclear Middle America, a region that expands from southern Guatemala to northern Nicaragua, are described herein. Historically, three broad ichthyological provinces have been assigned to Nuclear Middle America: the Usumacinta, and the San Juan in the Atlantic slope and the Chiapas-Nicaraguense in the Pacific slope. With the use of correspondence analysis and unweighted pair group method with arithmetic mean cluster analysis of a presence/absence matrix of 76 obligate freshwater fishes, we identified four ichthyological provinces in Nuclear Middle America: (1) the Honduras and Guatemala Caribbean Highlands Province, (2) the Honduras and Nicaragua Mosquitia Province, (3) the Chiapas-El Salvador-Nacaome Province, and (4) the Choluteca and Nicaragua Pacific Province. Differences between provinces in species composition and species turnover between provinces were tested by analysis of similarity, the calculation of beta-diversity indices and an indicator species analysis. We then further characterized each province by identifying the number of endemics and classifying species according to their salinity tolerance. The most striking patterns of Nuclear Middle America freshwater fish distribution are its paucity of primary freshwater fishes and limited numbers of endemics. The four ichthyological provinces are distinct as indicated by the ANOSIM and beta-diversity analysis, although one province showed low beta-diversity values. These results suggest that, despite of the active geological history that characterized the region, there has been limited isolation of species in any given province, and historical drainage connectivity has been high.