The evolution of hermaphroditism in fishes has intrigued scientists for over a century, but few have studied fine-scale evolutionary transitions between sexual patterns within the context of detailed hypotheses regarding phylogenetic relationships. Our phylogenetic reconstruction of sexual patterns in the seabasses (Teleostei: Serranidae) using a composite tree of 47 species is consistent with the hypothesis that protogyny is the ancestral condition in the family from which other sexual patterns evolved. Under this scenario, members of the Anthiinae retained protogynous hermaphroditism, as did the serranine genera Centropristis and Cheilidoperca. Gonochorism evolved once in the genus Paralabrax, and simultaneous hermaphroditism evolved once in the lineage that includes species of Hypoplectrus, Serranus, Serraniculus, and Diplectrum. Androdioecy evolved once within the genus Serranus and was derived from simultaneous hermaphroditism. Results from this study differ from previous hypotheses on the evolution of sexual patterns in seabasses and suggest that sexual patterns in fishes can evolve in several directions within single lineages and do not require functional intermediates.

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