Phylogeography of the freshwater catfish Tandanus tandanus (Plotosidae): a model species to understand evolution of the eastern Australian freshwater fish fauna Dean R. Jerry Aquaculture Genetics Research Program, School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia. Email: Dean.Jerry@jcu.edu.au Abstract The geologically complex eastern Australian coastal margin supports the highest taxonomic diversity of freshwater fishes on the continent. However, mechanisms leading to coastal biogeographic patterns are poorly understood. A 399-bp fragment of the hypervariable mtDNA control region was sequenced from populations of eel-tailed catfish (Tandanus tandanus) to determine their phylogeographic structure and to relate this to proposed biogeographic mechanisms and landform evolution. Genetic structure in Tandanus is complex, with haplotypes clustering into three lineages: a phylogenetically distant, northern Queensland clade that is probably a new species; a mid-northern New South Wales clade corresponding to the recently discovered ‘Bellinger’ Tandanus cryptic species; and a third ‘derived’ clade T. tandanus. Phylogenetic analyses suggest that eastern Australian Tandanus originally invaded freshwaters from the coast where volcanic activity in the north and increasing aridity from the Paleocene reduced inter-fluvial connections, causing genetic divergence of northern Queensland and mid-northern New South Wales populations. The haplotypes represented by Murray–Darling drainage T. tandanus were the most derived, indicating that this species originally evolved on the coast and subsequently colonised the Murray–Darling basin. Tandanus in eastern Australia is phylogenetically structured and possibly comprises three species in this region; a pattern potentially shared by other eastern Australian freshwater fishes.