Evidence of hidden diversity and taxonomic conflicts in five stream fishes from the Eastern Zimbabwe Highlands freshwater ecoregion

Stream fishes of the Eastern Afromontane region are among the least studied vertebrates in this region, despite the potential for harbouring cryptic diversity. The present study examined mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) sequence divergence in 153 specimens of stream fishes belonging to four genera and three families, [(Amphilius and Zaireichthys (Amphiliidae); Chiloglanis (Mochokidae); and Hippopotamyrus (Mormyridae)], in the Eastern Zimbabwe Highlands (EZH) freshwater ecoregion to explore the extent to which the current taxonomy conceals the ichthyofaunal diversity in the region. The General Mixed Yule Coalescent (GMYC) species delineation method identified 14 clusters within five currently recognised ‘species’ from the EZH ecoregion. Only one of these clusters represents a named species, while 13 of them represent candidate or undescribed species. Our results revealed that effective conservation of this region’s unique biota is limited by the incomplete knowledge of taxonomic diversity and inaccurate mapping of species distribution ranges.