One water bucket to find them all: Detecting fish, mammals, and birds from a single sample

In times of exacerbating biodiversity loss, reliable data on species occurrence are essential. Environmental DNA (eDNA) – DNA released from organisms into the water – is increasingly used to detect fishes in biodiversity monitoring campaigns. However, eDNA turns out to be capable of providing much more than fish occurrence data, including information on other vertebrates. A study, published in the open-access journal Metabarcoding and Metagenomics, demonstrates how comprehensively vertebrate diversity can be assessed at no additional costs.

Revolutionary environmental DNA analysis holds great potential for the future of biodiversity monitoring, concludes a new study

Collection of water samples for eDNA metabarcoding bioassessment.
Photo by Till-Hendrik Macher.

In times of exacerbating biodiversity loss, reliable data on species occurrence are essential, in order for prompt and adequate conservation actions to be initiated. This is especially true for freshwater ecosystems, which are particularly vulnerable and threatened by anthropogenic impacts. Their ecological status has already been highlighted as a top priority by multiple national and international directives, such as the European Water Framework Directive.

However, traditional monitoring methods, such as electrofishing, trapping methods, or observation-based assessments, which are the current status-quo in fish monitoring, are often time- and cost-consuming. As a result, over the last decade, scientists progressively agree that we need a more comprehensive and holistic method to assess freshwater biodiversity.

Meanwhile, recent studies have continuously been demonstrating that eDNA metabarcoding analyses, where DNA traces found in the water are used to identify what organisms live there, is an efficient method to capture aquatic biodiversity in a fast, reliable, non-invasive and relatively low-cost manner. In such metabarcoding studies, scientists sample, collect and sequence DNA, so that they can compare it with existing databases and identify the source organisms.

Furthermore, as eDNA metabarcoding assessments use samples from water, often streams, located at the lowest point, one such sample usually contains not only traces of specimens that come into direct contact with water, for example, by swimming or drinking, but also collects traces of terrestrial species indirectly via rainfalls, snowmelt, groundwaters etc. 

In standard fish eDNA metabarcoding assessments, these ‘bycatch data’ are typically left aside. Yet, from a viewpoint of a more holistic biodiversity monitoring, they hold immense potential to also detect the presence of terrestrial and semi-terrestrial species in the catchment.

In their new study, reported in the open-access scholarly journal Metabarcoding and MetagenomicsGerman researchers from the University of Duisburg-Essen and the German Environment Agency successfully detected an astonishing quantity of the local mammals and birds native to the Saxony-Anhalt state by collecting as much as 18 litres of water from across a two-kilometre stretch along the river Mulde.

After water filtration the eDNA filter is preserved in ethanol until further processing in the lab.
Photo by Till-Hendrik Macher.

In fact, it took only one day for the team, led by Till-Hendrik Macher, PhD student in the German Federal Environmental Agency-funded GeDNA project, to collect the samples. Using metabarcoding to analyse the DNA from the samples, the researchers identified as much as 50% of the fishes, 22% of the mammal species, and 7.4% of the breeding bird species in the region. 

However, the team also concluded that while it would normally take only 10 litres of water to assess the aquatic and semi-terrestrial fauna, terrestrial species required significantly more sampling.

Unlocking data from the increasingly available fish eDNA metabarcoding information enables synergies among terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity monitoring programs, adding further important information on species diversity in space and time. 

“We thus encourage to exploit fish eDNA metabarcoding biodiversity monitoring data to inform other conservation programs,”

says lead author Till-Hendrik Macher. 

“For that purpose, however, it is essential that eDNA data is jointly stored and accessible for different biodiversity monitoring and biodiversity assessment campaigns, either at state, federal, or international level,”

concludes Florian Leese, who coordinates the project.

Original source:

Macher T-H, Schütz R, Arle J, Beermann AJ, Koschorreck J, Leese F (2021) Beyond fish eDNA metabarcoding: Field replicates disproportionately improve the detection of stream associated vertebrate species. Metabarcoding and Metagenomics 5: e66557. https://doi.org/10.3897/mbmg.5.66557

Learning more about vampire fish: first report of candiru attached to an Amazonian thorny catfish

For the first time, scientists report a vampire fish attached to the body of an Amazonian thorny catfish. Very unusually, the candirus were attached close to the lateral bone plates, rather than the gills, where they are normally found. Since the hosts were not badly harmed, and the candirus apparently derived no food benefit, scientists believe this association is commensalistic rather than parasitic. The research is published in the open-access journal Acta Ichthyologica et Piscatoria.

Guest blog post by Chiara C. F. Lubich, André R. Martins, Carlos E. C. Freitas, Lawrence E. Hurd and Flávia K. Siqueira-Souza

The Amazon River Basin is home to about 15% of all freshwater fish species known to science, and an estimated 40% yet to be named. These include some of the most bizarre fishes: the vampire fishes, locally known as candiru, members of the catfish subfamily Vandelliinae.). They survive by attaching themselves to the bodies of other fish and sucking on their blood, hence their common name. Yet, it was only recently that we found out that one candiru species, belonging to the genus Paracanthopoma, seems to be making use of its host in quite a different way.

During a sampling study of freshwater fish fauna in a lake of the Demeni River Basin, a left bank tributary of the Negro River, we found candirus attached to the surface of the body of an Amazonian species of a thorny catfish. By the end of the survey, we had observed a total of twenty candirus attached to the outside of the bodies of nine larger Doras phlyzakion, one or two per host. Very unusually, the candirus were attached close to the lateral bone plates, rather than the gills, where these fish are normally found.

Location of the study: Demeni River, left bank tributary of Negro River, Amazonas State, Brazil.

As a result of these observations, we recently published the first record of a candiru attached to the body surface of an Amazonian thorny catfish in an article in the open-access scholarly journal Acta Ichthyologica et Piscatoria.

Vampire fish have long and robust snouts, with strong dentary teeth that help them stay attached to the epidermis of their host and feed on its blood. However, when we performed a macroscopic analysis of the stomach contents of the preserved Paracanthopoma specimens, we were surprised to find no coagulated blood, nor flesh, skin or mucus. This might indicate an interaction between parasite and host that is more benign than usually attributed to vampire fish. 

Doras phlyzakion with vampire fish (Paracanthopoma sp.)  fixed into its epidermis close to the bony plates of the lateral line. Arrows: areas with reddish wounds.

We believe the association between candiru and host in this case might be commensalistic (where one organism benefits from another without harming it), rather than parasitic, because the hosts were not badly harmed, and the candiru apparently derived no food benefit. 

But what else would they seek on the back of Amazonian thorny catfish? One explanation could be that, since candirus are tiny and nearly transparent, they might be avoiding getting noticed by visual predators by riding on larger fish. Another hypothesis is that they could be using their big cousins to transport them over longer distances that they wouldn’t be able to cover themselves, eventually making it to safety or new food sources.

Research article:

Lubich CCF, Martins AR, Freitas CEC, Hurd LE, Siqueira-Souza FK (2021) A candiru, Paracanthopoma sp. (Siluriformes: Trichomycteridae), associated with a thorny catfish, Doras phlyzakion (Siluriformes: Doradidae), in a tributary of the middle Rio Negro, Brazilian Amazon. Acta Ichthyologica et Piscatoria 51(3): 241-244. https://doi.org/10.3897/aiep.51.e64324

Wakanda Forever! Scientific divers describe new purple species of “twilight zone” fish from Africa

Named for Black Panther’s mythical nation of Wakanda, a dazzling new “Vibranium” Fairy Wrasse enchants with purple scales and a preference for deep, little-known mesophotic reefs up to 260 feet below the surface

Africa has new purple-clad warriors more than 200 feet beneath the ocean’s surface. Deep-diving scientists from the California Academy of SciencesHope for Reefs initiative and the University of Sydney spotted dazzling fairy wrasses—previously unknown to science—in the dimly lit mesophotic coral reefs of eastern Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania. 

Preserved specimen of Vibranium fairy wrasse (Cirrhilabrus wakanda) retains its striking coloration.
Photo by Jon Fong © 2018 California Academy of Sciences.

The multicolored wrasses sport deep purple scales so pigmented, they even retain their color (which is typically lost) when preserved for research. The scientists name this “twilight zone” reef-dweller Cirrhilabrus wakanda (common name “Vibranium Fairy Wrasse”) in honor of the mythical nation of Wakanda from the Marvel Entertainment comics and movie Black Panther. The new fish is described in the open-access journal Zookeys.

Female specimen of Vibranium fairy wrasse (Cirrhilabrus wakanda) in its natural habitat (Zanzibar). Photo by Luiz Rocha © 2018 California Academy of Sciences.

Yi-Kai Tea, lead author and ichthyology PhD student from the University of Sydney, says:

“When we thought about the secretive and isolated nature of these unexplored African reefs, we knew we had to name this new species after Wakanda. We’ve known about other related fairy wrasses from the Indian Ocean, but always thought there was a missing species along the continent’s eastern edge. When I saw this amazing purple fish, I knew instantly we were dealing with the missing piece of the puzzle.”

The Academy scientists say Cirrhilabrus wakanda’s remote home in mesophotic coral reefs—below recreational diving limits—probably contributed to their long-hidden status in the shadows of the Indian Ocean. 

A California Academy diver on an expedition in the Indian Ocean.
Photo by Bart Shepherd © 2018 California Academy of Sciences.

Therefore, Hope for Reefs’ scientific divers are highly trained for the dangerous process of researching in these deep, little-known mesophotic reefs, located 200 to 500 feet beneath the ocean’s surface. Accessing them requires technical equipment and physically intense training well beyond that of shallow-water diving. The team’s special diving gear (known as closed-circuit rebreathers) includes multiple tanks with custom gas blends and electronic monitoring equipment that allow the divers to explore deep reefs for mere minutes before a lengthy, hours-long ascent to the surface.

Dr. Luiz Rocha, Academy Curator of Fishes and co-leader of the Hope for Reefs, comments:

“Preparation for these deep dives is very intense and our dive gear often weighs more than us. When we reach these reefs and find unknown species as spectacular as this fairy wrasse, it feels like our hard work is paying off.”

California Academy’s “twilight zone” dive gear prepped for Zanzibar.
Photo by Luiz Rocha © 2018 California Academy of Sciences.

Using a microscope, the team examined the specimens’ scales, fin rays, and body structures. DNA and morphological analyses revealed the new fairy wrasse to be different from the other seven species in the western Indian Ocean as well as other relatives in the Pacific. The new species’ common name is inspired by the fictional metal vibranium, a rare, and, according to Rocha, “totally awesome” substance found in the nation of Wakanda. The Vibranium Fairy Wrasse’s purple chain-link scale pattern reminded the scientists of Black Panther’s super-strong suit and the fabric motifs worn by Wakandans in the hit film.

Precious life in deep reefs

In a recent landmark paper, the Academy team found that twilight zone reefs are unique ecosystems bursting with life and are just as vulnerable to human threats as their shallow counterparts. Their findings upended the long-standing assumption that species might avoid human-related stressors on those deeper reefs. The Hope for Reefs team will continue to visit and study twilight zone sites around the world to shed light on these often-overlooked ecosystems.

Newly described Pohnpei fish (Liopropoma incandescens). Photo by Luiz Rocha © 2018 California Academy of Sciences.

In addition to this new fish from Zanzibar, Rocha and his colleagues recently published descriptions of mesophotic fish from Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and Micronesia. Luzonichthys kiomeamea is an orange, white, and sunny yellow dwarf anthias endemic to Rapa Nui, and the basslet Liopropoma incandescens (another new species published today in Zookeys) inhabits Pohnpei’s deep reefs—a neon orange and yellow specimen collected from a rocky slope 426 feet beneath the ocean’s surface.  

“It’s a time of global crisis for coral reefs, and exploring little-known habitats and the life they support is now more important than ever,” concludes Rocha. “Because they are out of sight, these deeper reefs are often left out of marine reserves, so we hope our discoveries inspire their protection.”

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(Text by the California Academy of Sciences, USA)

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Research articles:

Tea YK, Pinheiro HT, Shepherd B, Rocha LA (2019) Cirrhilabrus wakanda, a new species of fairy wrasse from mesophotic ecosystems of Zanzibar, Tanzania, Africa (Teleostei, Labridae). ZooKeys 863: 85–96. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.863.35580.

Pinheiro HT, Shepherd B, Greene BD, Rocha LA (2019) Liopropoma incandescens sp. nov. (Epinephelidae, Liopropominae), a new species of basslet from mesophotic coral ecosystems of Pohnpei, Micronesia. ZooKeys 863: 97–106. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.863.33778.

Hawaii’s newest species named in honor of President Obama

The new species is the only coral-reef fish that lives exclusively within the marine protected area, which was recently expanded by the President

Scientists from the Bishop Museum, NOAA, and the Association for Marine Exploration published the description of a new species of coral-reef fish that they named in honor of President Barack Obama. The fish, which now bears the formal scientific name Tosanoides obama, was discovered during a June 2016 NOAA expedition to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The study is published in the open-access scientific journal ZooKeys.

“We decided to name this fish after President Obama to recognize his efforts to protect and preserve the natural environment, including the expansion of Papahānaumokuākea,” said Richard Pyle, Bishop Museum scientist and lead author of the study. “This expansion adds a layer of protection to one of the last great wilderness areas on Earth.” The Museum is currently showcasing the exhibit Journeys: Heritage of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, featuring the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and the Monument.

figure04On August 26 of this year, at the urging of Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), conservationists, and many marine scientists, President Obama expanded Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. At 582,578 square miles, it is the largest permanent marine protected area on Earth. On September 1, during his trip to Midway Atoll within the Monument, legendary scientist, conservationist and deep ocean explorer Dr. Sylvia Earle gave the President a photograph of the fish that now bears his name. The exchange will be featured in the National Geographic global broadcast special, “Sea Of Hope” scheduled to be released on January 15, 2017.

The small pink and yellow fish is a kind of basslet, a group that includes many colorful reef fishes popular in the marine aquarium fish trade. There are two other species in the genus Tosanoides, both from the tropical northwestern Pacific Ocean. Males of the new species have a distinctive spot on the dorsal fin near the tail, which is blue around the edge and red with yellow stripes in the center. “The spot on the males is reminiscent of President Obama’s campaign logo,” said Pyle. “It seemed especially appropriate for a fish named in honor of the president.”

“The new fish is special because it is the only known species of coral-reef fish endemic to the Monument (meaning that the species is found nowhere else on Earth). Our research has documented the highest rate of fish endemism in the world — 100% — living on the deep reefs where we found this new species,” said NOAA scientist Randall Kosaki, chief scientist of the research cruise, and co-author on the paper. However, unlike all the other Hawaiian endemic species, which also occur in the main Hawaiian Islands, this new species is special because it is the only one that is limited to within the Monument itself. “Endemic species are unique contributions to global biodiversity,” Kosaki added. “With the onslaught of climate change, we are at risk of losing some of these undiscovered species before we even know they exist.”

The new fish was first discovered and collected on a dive to 300 feet at Kure Atoll, 1200 miles northwest of Honolulu. Kure is the northernmost of the Hawaiian Islands, and is the highest latitude coral atoll in the world. Deep coral reefs at depths of 150 to 500 feet, in the so-called “Twilight Zone” (also known as mesophotic coral ecosystems), are among the most poorly explored of all marine ecosystems. Located deeper than divers using conventional scuba gear can safely venture, these reefs represent a new frontier for coral-reef research. Pyle and co-authors Brian Greene and Randall Kosaki pioneered the use of advanced mixed-gas diving systems known as closed-circuit rebreathers for Twilight Zone research, and have been documenting the previously unexplored deep reefs throughout Hawai’i and the broader Pacific for the past three decades.

“These deep coral reefs are home to an incredible diversity of fishes, corals, and other marine invertebrates,” said Brian Greene, an experienced deep diver and researcher with the Association for Marine Exploration, and co-author of the paper. “There are many new species still waiting to be discovered down there.”

This is the second new species of fish from Papahānaumokuākea named this year. In August, Pyle and Kosaki published the description of a new species of butterflyfish (Prognathodes basabei) based on specimens collected on deep reefs at Pearl and Hermes Atoll earlier this year. President Obama also has several species from other locales named after him: a trapdoor spider, a speckled freshwater darter (fish), a parasitic hairworm, and an extinct lizard.

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Original source:

Citation: Pyle RL, Greene RD, Kosaki RK (2016) Tosanoides obama, a new basslet (Perciformes, Percoidei, Serranidae) from deep coral reefs in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. ZooKeys 641: 165-181. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.641.11500

New species of butterflyfish in the deep reefs of now Earth’s largest protected area Papahānaumokuākea

In the midst of the ongoing IUCN World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, scientists from Bishop Museum and NOAA published a description of a new species of butterflyfish from deep reefs of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which was recently expanded by President Barack Obama to become world’s largest protected area. The study is published in the open-access scientific journal ZooKeys.

“Butterflyfish are among the most conspicuous fishes on the reefs,” said Richard Pyle, Bishop Museum researcher and first author on the publication. “They are colorful, beautiful, and have been well-studied worldwide. Thus, finding a new species of butterflyfish is a rare event.”

RPyleCollectingHolotypeP.basabei
Author Dr Richard Pyle collecting an individual of the new butterflyfish P. basabei

Coral reefs at depths of 100 to 500 feet, also known as mesophotic coral ecosystems or the coral-reef “twilight zone,” are among the most poorly explored of all marine ecosystems. Deeper than scuba divers can safely venture, and shallower than most submersible-based exploration, these reefs represent a new frontier for coral-reef research.

“Discoveries such as this underscore how poorly explored our deep coral reefs are,” said Randall Kosaki, NOAA scientist and co-author of the study. “Virtually every deep dive reveals a reef that no human being has ever laid eyes on.” Pyle and Kosaki have pioneered the use of advanced mixed-gas diving systems known as rebreathers (because they recycle the diver’s breathing gas). Rebreathers allow deeper and longer dives, enabling new opportunities for exploring and documenting deep coral reef habitats throughout the world’s tropical seas.

The new butterflyfish was first seen in submersible video over twenty years ago, at depths exceeding 600 feet. At the time, Pyle and University of Hawai‘i marine biologist E.H. “Deetsie” Chave recognized it as a potential new species. However, because of the extreme depths, it was years before technical divers using rebreather technology were able to collect specimens for proper scientific documentation.  

Using this technology, NOAA and Museum researchers have encountered the new butterflyfish regularly during deep exploratory dives up to 330 feet on NOAA expeditions to the Monument, where the specimens for the scientific description were collected

The new fish, Prognathodes basabei, is named after Pete Basabe, a veteran local diver from Kona, Hawai‘i who, over the years, has assisted with the collection of reef fishes for numerous scientific studies and educational displays. Basabe, an experienced deep diver himself, was instrumental in providing support for the dives that produced the first specimen of the fish that now bears his name.

 

The Holotype, the Author, the Publisher Author Dr Richard Pyle (left) with Pensoft's and ZooKeys' founder Prof Lyubomir Penev (right) with the new butterflyfish P. basabei
The Holotype, the Author, the Publisher
Author Dr Richard Pyle (left) and Pensoft’s and ZooKeys’ founder Prof Lyubomir Penev (right) with the new butterflyfish P. basabei

At the urging of Native Hawaiian leaders, conservationists, and many marine scientists, President Obama recently expanded the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. At 582,578 square miles, Papahānaumokuākea is now the largest protected area on Earth.

“This new discovery illustrates the conservation value of very large marine protected areas,” said Kosaki. “Not only do they protect the biodiversity that we already know about, they also protect the diversity we’ve yet to discover. And there’s a lot left to discover.”

 

Original source:
Pyle RL, Kosaki RK (2016) Prognathodes basabei, a new species of butterflyfish (Perciformes, Chaetodontidae) from the Hawaiian Archipelago. ZooKeys 614: 137-152. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.614.10200

Scorpionfish too deep for SCUBA divers caught by submersible turns out to be a new species

Smithsonian Institution’s DROP project describes a tenth new fish species near the Caribbean island of Curaçao

Discovered by scientists using the manned submersible Curasub in the deep-reef waters of the Caribbean island of Curaçao, a new scorpionfish species is the latest one captured with the help of the sub’s two robotic arms.

Found by Dr. Carole C. Baldwin, lead scientist of the Smithsonian’s Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP) and based at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, Ms. Diane Pitassy, also affiliated with the Smithsonian in Washington, and Dr. Ross Robertson, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama, the new species is described in the open access journal ZooKeys. In their paper, the authors also discuss the depth distributions and relationships of western Atlantic members of its genus.

The new scorpionfish is distinguished from other similar scorpionfishes by a number of physical traits, including its distinctive bright orange-red colors, more elongated fin rays, and DNA. Inhabiting depths between 95 m and 160 m, it is also the deepest-living member of its genus in the western Atlantic Ocean.

The new scorpionfish is officially called Scorpaenodes barrybrowni in honor of Substation Curaçao and freelance photographer Barry Brown, who “has patiently, diligently, and expertly taken photographs of hundreds of fishes and invertebrates captured alive by DROP Investigators,” explain the authors. “He has generously shared his photographs, and they have enhanced numerous scientific and educational publications. It is an honor to recognize Barry Brown’s contributions to science through his photography.”

8590_Image2
Another scorpionfish species belonging to the same genus.

“Fish specimens that are brought up from deep reefs only occasionally surface alive,” explains Baldwin. When DROP scientists return to the surface in the Curasub with a living fish, Barry races it to his aquarium and begins to work his photographic magic.”

The new fish already has a common name as well. For the public, it will be known as the Stellate Scorpionfish, deriving from its star-shaped yellowish spots and the radiating pigment markings accentuating its eyes.

The manned submersible Curasub reaches depths up to 300 m and is used by DROP and other marine scientists to search for tropical marine fishes and invertebrates, while conventional SCUBA divers are unable to reach deeper than 30 – 50 metres below the water surface.

“The 50-300 m tropical ocean zone is poorly studied – too deep for conventional SCUBA and too shallow to be of much interest to really deep-diving submersibles,” notes Baldwin. “The Curasub is providing scientists with the technology needed to remedy this gap in our knowledge of Caribbean reef biodiversity.”

The sub relies on two hydraulic arms, one equipped with a suction hose, and the other designed to immobilize the fish with an anaesthetizing chemical. Once anesthetized, the individuals are collected with the suction hose, which empties into a vented plexiglass cylinder attached to the outside of the sub.

In January, the team of Drs. Luke Tornabene, Robertson and Baldwin discovered the Godzilla goby. About a year ago, Baldwin and Robertson stumbled upon another new goby species, which amazed the scientists with its love for the depths so much that they named it after the Curasub. In 2013, the authors recognized the DROP research program in the name of a beautiful new species of small blenny fish, Haptoclinus dropi.

“Stay tuned for more new discoveries,” suggests Baldwin. “We have only scratched the surface of our understanding of the biodiversity of tropical deep reefs.”

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Original source:

Baldwin CC, Pitassy DE, Robertson DR (2016) A new deep-reef scorpionfish (Teleostei, Scorpaenidae, Scorpaenodes) from the southern Caribbean with comments on depth distributions and relationships of western Atlantic members of the genus. ZooKeys 606: 141-158. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.606.8590

The Godzilla goby is the latest new species discovered by the Smithsonian DROP project

As part of the Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP), initiated by the Smithsonian Institution, a new goby fish species was discovered in the southern Caribbean. Living at depths greater than conventional SCUBA divers can access, yet too shallow to be of interest for deep-diving submersibles, the fish will now be known under the common name of the Godzilla goby.

Its discoverers Drs Luke Tornabene, Ross Robertson and Carole C. Baldwin, all affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, have described the species in the open access journal ZooKeys.

Formally called Varicus lacerta, the species name translates to ‘lizard’ in Latin and refers to the reptilian appearance of the fish. Its prime colors are bright yellow and orange, while the eyes are green.

The new goby also has a disproportionately large head and multiple rows of recurved canine teeth in each jaw. This is also why the research team has chosen the common name of the Godzilla goby.

Apart from its lovely coloration, the new fish stands out with its branched, feather-like pelvic-fin rays and the absence of scales.

The scientists caught the Godzilla goby thanks to the manned submersible Curasub, which had already helped in discovering several species over the course of the project. Last year, Drs Ross Robertson and Carole Baldwin had another new goby published in ZooKeys. That time, they even named it after the submersible. Earlier this year, the DROP team also described nine additional new species, many of which were collected by the Curasub.

The manned submersible Curasub reaches depths up to 300 m in search of tropical marine fishes and invertebrates. As a result, it provides new information on the fauna that inhabits poorly studied deep-reef ecosystems.

The sub relies on two hydraulic arms, one equipped with a suction hose, and the other designed to immobilize the fish with an anaesthetizing chemical. That way, not only do the researchers gather live specimens, which once collected, are deposited into a vented acrylic cylinder attached to the outside of the sub, but also individuals suitable for critical DNA analyses.

Img 2 Baldwin Robertson

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Original source:

Tornabene L, Robertson DR, Baldwin CC (2016) Varicus lacerta, a new species of goby (Teleostei, Gobiidae, Gobiosomatini, Nes subgroup) from a mesophotic reef in the southern Caribbean. ZooKeys 596: 143-156. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.596.8217

Zorro, the new Latin American fish species, takes off the mask to show its true identity

Unidentified since its discovery in 2007, a large fish species from Amazonia has failed to give out enough information about itself, leaving only insufficient hints about its genus. Nevertheless, three scientists have now recovered the missing pieces to puzzle out its mysterious identity. In their study, published in the open-access journal ZooKeys, they describe the fish as a new species and name it after the fictional secretive Latin American character Zorro.

The new fish, called Myloplus zorroi, is commonly known among the Brazilians as ‘pacu’ and is a relative to the piranha. The research team, led by Marcelo C. Andrade, Universidade Federal do Para, Brazil, recognised in a fish, collected by sport fishermen from Rio Madeira basin, Brazil, a previously found, yet undescribed species. Following their analysis, it turned out that its discoverers had assumed an incorrect genus for it.

Among the distinctive features of the new fish, which helped its rightful placement, are its characteristic teeth, specialised to crush seeds.

The new pacu species is quite large, growing up to 47,5 cm. It dwells in moderately to rapidly flowing clear rivers, running over rocky or sandy bottoms, and ranging from about 2 to 8 metres in depth. Its basis colour is reddish silver with darker markings running along the upper side of the body. The head is dark and the belly – pale yellow.

Curiously enough, although the name of the new fish is chosen as a tribute to Mauricio Camargo-Zorro, a researcher at the Instituto Federal de Educacao, Ciencia e Tecnologia, in recognition of his invaluable contribution to the fish fauna inventory from the Marmelos Conservation Area, zorroi is also a playful reference to the Latin American fictional character Don Diego de la Vega and his secret identity hidden behind the nickname of Zorro.

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Original source:

Andrade MC, Jegu M, Giarrizzo T (2016) A new large species of Myloplus (Characiformes, Serrasalmidae) from the Rio Madeira basin, Brazil. ZooKeys 571: 153-167. doi: http://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.571.5983.

Undergraduate student takes to Twitter to expose illegal release of alien fish in Japan

Posing a significant threat to the native biodiversity in Japan, specifically that of threatened aquatic insects, some alien fishes, such as the bluegill, have become the reason for strict prohibitions. All activities potentially capable of introducing the species into the wild are currently punishable by either a fine of up to 3 million yen for a person (100 million yen for corporations), or a prison sentence of up to 3 years.

Recently, ten years after the law has been adopted, illegal release of bluegill fish has been reported for the first time with the help of a post on Twitter from Akinori Teramura, undergraduate student at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology and second author of the present study. The case is reported and discussed by him and two scientists, affiliated with Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History, Japan, in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

In June 2015, Akinori Teramura tweeted two photographs of the invasive bluegill fish, both adults and juveniles, along with two young goldfish, which do not belong to the local fauna, either. In his post he identified the species and shared his surprise at the irresponsibility of the people who had released the fish. When lead author Dr Yusuke Miyazaki saw the tweet, he signalled his colleagues with the idea to publish the information as a scientific report.

The student found them in an outdoor public pool in Yokohama city, Japan, while it was being cleaned before being opened ahead of the summer. Usually, these facilities are closed to the public during the colder seasons and it is then when native aquatic insect species, such as dragonflies and diving beetles, find spawning and nursery habitats in them. Curiously enough, though, the pool had been isolated from natural waters since its construction.

7577_ZK_Data-mining and Twitter img3

Therefore, the researchers conclude that the alien fishes have most likely been released from an aquarium from a local shop or an aquarist who no longer wanted them. However, the authors note that according to the law, keeping bluegill fish in a home aquarium is illegal as well.

“Our report demonstrates an example of web data mining in the discipline of Citizen Science,” say the authors. “Web data mining has been rapidly developing over recent years, and its potential continues to expand.”

“Community awareness of this issue needs to be improved, and widespread reporting of cases such as this one will help,” they conclude.

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Original source:

 

Miyazaki Y, Teramura A, Senou H (2016) Biodiversity data mining from Argus-eyed citizens: the first illegal introduction record of Lepomis macrochirus macrochirus Rafinesque, 1819 in Japan based on Twitter information. ZooKeys 569: 123-133. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.569.7577

‘Hidden fish’ genus described for 2 new weakly electric mormyrid species from Gabon

A new weakly electric mormyrid fish genus of two new species has been described from only three specimens collected over a period of 13 years in the rivers of the Central African country of Gabon. The genus has been named Cryptomyrus, meaning ‘hidden fish’ in Greek, and is the first new genus to be described within the family Mormyridae since 1977.

The study, authored by Dr. John Sullivan and Prof. Carl Hopkins of Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, and Sebastien Lavoue of the Institute of Oceanography at the National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan, is published in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

“It’s odd we have only three specimens, given how much fish collection effort there’s been in Gabon over the past years,” says lead author Dr. John Sullivan. “Not having more made the descriptions difficult, but it was important to bring this discovery to light without further delay.” Sullivan added that he does not know if these fish are rare throughout their range or if specialists simply have not sampled localities or habitats where they are common, yet. “It shows that we still have a very incomplete picture of fish diversity in Gabon,” says Dr. Sullivan.

The last of the three specimens was found on an expedition to Gabon’s Ogooue River in September 2014, jointly sponsored by CENAREST and The Nature Conservancy. It was after nightfall on the Ogooue, beside Doume Falls, when Sullivan and the other team members caught the one odd fish in a plastic fish trap baited with earthworms. Reflecting its river of origin, the species now bares the name Cryptomyrus ogoouensis, while the second – Cryptomyrus ona, is named after Gabonese environmental activist Marc Ona Essangui.

Puzzled over the identity of the fish, back home at the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates Dr. Sullivan remembered two somewhat similar specimens collected in Gabon and sent to him for identification by his colleagues Sebastien Lavoue and Yves Fermon, 11 years apart. “This is why we need natural history collections,” said Dr. Sullivan, “to keep these specimens and their DNA samples in good condition, because it can take years or even decades to connect the dots.”

Analyses of the DNA from the three specimens conducted at Cornell University showed they were close relatives and did not belong within any recognized genus. “That left us no choice but to describe them as a new genus, and Cryptomyrus, which means “hidden fish,” seemed an appropriate name given how hard they are to find,” said Dr. Sullivan.

Over 200 species of mormyrid fish live in fresh waters across Africa where they orient to their environment and communicate using electric pulses, too weak to be felt by humans, in combination with highly sensitive electroreceptor cells embedded in their skin.

The Nature Conservancy, a global conservation organization that works in more than 35 countries around the world, funded the 2014 expedition of the Ogooue. “We were thrilled to have contributed to this discovery,” said Marie-Claire Paiz, Gabon Program Director for The Nature Conservancy. “Our goal is to help Gabon acquire better baseline knowledge about the state of their fish and rivers which will enable them make science-guided choices about where and how to use their resources wisely for both people and nature.”

“The Nature Conservancy deserves a lot of credit,” commented Sullivan. “It’s a great example of how a conservation organization can promote the discovery of biodiversity by partnering with taxonomists and natural history museums.”

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Original Source:

Citation: Sullivan JP, Lavoue S, Hopkins CD (2016) Cryptomyrus: a new genus of Mormyridae (Teleostei, Osteoglossomorpha) with two new species from Gabon, West-Central Africa.ZooKeys 561: 117-150. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.561.7137