Brittle Stars: White Wedding - From the good folks at Coral Magazine

Brittle Stars: White Wedding

28 Aug, 2013

Spawnign brittle stars scurrying to the surface.

Spawning brittle stars scurrying to the surface.

By Daniel Knop
Web Bonus Content from the September/October 2013 Issue of CORAL Magazine
Additional Bonus Brittle Star Articles

Spider-like, they emerged from all cracks and crevices. It looked almost like an alien invasion in a science fiction movie. Countless arms waved through the water, probed the environment, and attached themselves to rocks to pull themselves up. Each individual wanted to be first, to find the best place. The urge of a brittle star to climb—from the rock structure, up the aquarium glass, to the surface—is so powerful that some specimens came out of the water, standing on the bodies of their fellows. With almost blind zeal, half a hundred of these echinoderms assembled, as if following a secret command. However, it was not blind obedience or fear that drove them, but the irrepressible wish to reproduce: a brittle star wedding was imminent!

Brittle stars’ arms intertwined in a dense network.

Brittle stars’ arms intertwined in a dense network.

Unlike other invertebrates that mate and exchange their genetic material directly, free spawners must synchronize their germ cell release. Therefore, they need a trigger that sets in motion the complex reproductive process. For these brittle stars, often referred to as Ophiocoma pumila in the hobby, that trigger is a sudden change in the environment—in this case a partial water change. As soon as the fresh sea water had flowed into the aquarium and mixed with the old water, the first arms stretched out from under the rocks. Within moments the aquarium, which had shown no sign of a brittle star before the water change, was teeming with them. These animals normally hide during the day and come out at to scavenge at night, but now they suddenly moved out into the open, despite all the dangers, to comply with their biological directive: reproduction.

The crowded animals compete for the highest spot, and some specimens even climb out of the water.

The crowded animals compete for the highest spot, and some specimens even climb out of the water.

While most brittle star species are dioecious, some are hermaphroditic. Some free-spawning hermaphroditic species exclusively release sperm, while the oocytes remain in the body and are fertilized by the sperm of other individuals. The larvae of these hermaphroditic breeders remain in the respiratory cavities, or bursae, and mature there.

Thick white clouds of sperm exit from the genital slits.

Thick white clouds of sperm exit from the genital slits.

On each side of the armpit on the oral side there are slit-shaped genital openings to the bursae—sac-like invaginations that are usually used for respiration. The animal reduces its volume by contracting the oral disc muscles to eject water and increases its volume by breathing in oxygen-rich water. The bursae also contain the gonads. Here, the sperm mature and are stored in a low-liquid form. During spawning, the gonads empty the sperm into the bursae, which serve as reservoirs. The germ cells are diluted with water, so the amount of sperm that finally emerges through the openings at the bases of the arms appears to be very great.

This is a typical posture: the oral disc is raised to squeeze the sperm out through the genital slits.

This is a typical posture: the oral disc is raised to squeeze the sperm out through the genital slits.

In seemingly endless swells, this white mass exits through the genital slits, drips down, and forms elongated streaks in the open water. In contrast lighting, the five or six-armed stars look like comets with white tails. The sperm gradually mixes with the surrounding water to form a homogeneous, whitish mist that envelops everything.

Others join in from near the water’s surface.

Others join in from near the water’s surface.

Within about an hour, most of the 50 brittle stars had released sperm. Some had remained near their hiding places in the typical spawning posture, with exposed oral discs. However, most of the small echinoderms had taken the more daring path, climbing up to the water’s surface in order to ensure that their own genes were spread as widely as possible. Some in top form unloaded huge masses into the 16-gallon (60-L) aquarium. The turbidity was significant, but none of the other aquarium animals developed signs of a lack of oxygen or other discomfort. The skimmer continued to work normally and showed no tendency to bubble over. A short time later, the tiny reef had returned to normal and there was no sign of the brittle stars’ “white wedding.”

In contrast lighting, the five- or six-armed stars exhibit a white comet tail—reminiscent of a “white wedding.”

In contrast lighting, the five- or six-armed stars exhibit a white comet tail—reminiscent of a “white wedding.”

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August 30, 2013 - 8:56 AM No Comments

Macna Starts this weekend

See You at MACNA South Florida

27 Aug, 2013

CORAL is heading to Hollywood….

Make that Hollywood, Florida, the site of the Marine Aquarium Conference of North America 2013, between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale on the Atlantic shore.

Collect the CORAL 2013 Button at Booth 507. Supplies limited.

Collect the CORAL 2013 Button at Booth 507. Supplies are limited.

We can be found at Booth 507 (with Boyd Enterprises and the Coral Restoration Society) and across the aisle at Booth 407 with Two Little Fishies, who will be selling the Banggai Cardinalfish book, making its first appearance at MACNA.

These booths are at the entrance to the raffle area (and next to the expected hubbub at the Reef Geek booth, where the stars of the Animal Planet hit seriesTanked! Wayde King and Brett Raymer will again be holding court).

Find the booths and ask for the free collectible 2013 buttons for CORAL, the BANGGAI Book, and AMAZONAS.

More Information

MACNA 2013
BANGGAI CARDINALFISH Book
Two Little Fishies

Animall Planet stars Wayde King and Brett Raymer of TANKED! will again be the center of attraction at the Reef Geek booth, in the same neighborhood as the CORAL and TWO LITTLE FISHIES booths , numbers 405 - 507.

Animal Planet stars Wayde King and Brett Raymer of TANKED will again be the center of attraction at the Reef Geek MACNA booth, in the same neighborhood as the CORAL and TWO LITTLE FISHIES booths , numbers 507 and 407.

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August 30, 2013 - 8:52 AM No Comments

Pity we will never see these legally in Aus

Aquacultured Clarion Angel Comes to the US

09 Aug, 2013

Aquacultured Clarion Angelfish from Bali Aquarich, images courtesy / copyright Quality Marine

Aquacultured Clarion Angelfish from Bali Aquarich, images courtesy / copyright Quality Marine

Press Release. Quality Marine, 08-07-2013

In a Western Hemisphere First, An Aquacultured Clarion Angel is Available!

Quality Marine is proud to announce the first Aquacultured Clarion Angel (Holacanthus clarionensis) available for sale in North America. This fish was produced from a captive breeding at Bali Aquarich, where it was reared to a salable size. It was then shipped to the United Kingdom for a brief period and now it is beginning its North American tour in Southern California, here at Quality Marine.

Aquacultured Clarion Angelfish from Bali Aquarich, images courtesy / copyright Quality Marine

Aquacultured Clarion Angelfish from Bali Aquarich, images courtesy / copyright Quality Marine

What makes the Clarion so special?

The Clarion Angel is a gorgeous fish that adapts very well to aquarium environments. They are hardy and are “personable” tank inhabitants. Though they can be pugnacious with tank mates, they generally learn to recognize people as feeders and will interact with them.

This is a fish with a very limited distribution, coming only from shallow water tropical reef locations from the southern tip of Baja California, Mexico down to Clipperton Island. The majority of the species are found in the Revillagigedo Islands. The population size, distribution, and habitat that this fish prefers is so limited that it could easily be over exploited. It is currently listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN Red List. Quality Marine does not import or stock wild Clarion Angels.

Aquacultured Clarion Angelfish from Bali Aquarich, images courtesy / copyright Quality Marine

Aquacultured Clarion Angelfish from Bali Aquarich, images courtesy / copyright Quality Marine

Biology / Captive Care

Juveniles of this species are generally solitary and territorial and occasionally have been seen acting as cleaner fish. Adults are generally also observed singly, and have also been observed acting as cleaners for very large rays. They also occasionally form large groups which some literature suggests is for breeding.

H. Clarionensis has a fairly small adult size at 7.8 inches. Like most fish in their genus, a large portion of their wild diet consists of sponge matter, with some aquarists reporting that coloration fades if food containing sponges is not offered. The blue barring of this juvenile fish will fade and it will end up being a brilliant gold coloration.

Aquacultured Clarion Angelfish from Bali Aquarich, images courtesy / copyright Quality Marine

Aquacultured Clarion Angelfish from Bali Aquarich, images courtesy / copyright Quality Marine

Quality Marine

Celebrating over 35 years in business, Quality Marine continues to provide the Public and Retail Aquarium industry with the highest quality, most sustainable and widest selection of both wild and aquacultured marine fish and invertebrates. Quality Marine works tirelessly to support responsible operators that collect in a sustainable manner and protect the reef habitat. We encourage all industry professionals to do the same. We continue to exhibit our commitment to helping make this industry a better one, to help protect our resources for not only the longevity of our trade, but also for the preservation of the environment. As our business grows, we still focus on the keys to our success, Quality, Variety, and Service, second to none.

Eli Fleishauer
Quality Marine

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August 22, 2013 - 10:25 AM No Comments

NEW CHALICE CORAL FOUND

New Echinophyllia Stony Coral Species Found

31 Jul, 2013

The new Echinophyllia tarae, discovered in the Gambier Archipelago of French Polynesia.

The new Echinophyllia tarae, discovered in the Gambier Archipelago of French Polynesia. Color morphs ranged from bright green to beige and various shades of brown. Image: Francesca Benzoni.

Marine biologist Francesca Benzoni, who recently described the species, Echinophyllia tarae.

Marine biologist Francesca Benzoni, who recently described the species, Echinophyllia tarae.

Difficult to identify but often dazzlingly beautiful, Chalice corals are much-appreciate by many reef aquarists. Now a new species of this small genus of shallow-water Indo-Pacific stony corals has just been added to the roster of eight previously known Echinophyllia species. The new coral is described in a paper by Francesca Benzoni from the University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy, and published in the journal ZooKeys on July 24, 2013.

Known as Echinophyllia tarae, the coral is reported to resemble E. echinata, well-known in the aquarium trade, as well as E. nishihirai, in living specimens. Skeletal analysis, however, reveals that the new species has a distinctive central corallite, as seen in the image above (right of center).

The author, says that many specimens were observed in the remote Gambier Archipelago apparently recovering from “partial death” caused by temporary burial in sediments. The green colony above, she says in the paper, shows “a concave colony with a large central corallite showing a peripheral rim of skeleton encrusted by pink coralline algae and surrounded by zoanthids and corallimorpharians at Mangareva Island. Echinophyllia tarae sp. n. is most commonly found at sheltered sites characterized by calm water conditions and muddy sediment which could be stirred up and deposit on benthic organisms suffocating them (Erftemeijer etal. 2012).”

Variation of shape, spikiness of septa and costae, and colouration of large colonies Echinophyllia tarae sp. n. observed in situ. A: Brown encrusting colony with free margins, bright green oral discs and raised corallites, Akamaru Island. B: Brown encrusting colony with white oral discs, raised corallites (larger one in the stippled circle), and very spiky costae, Taravai Island, the prominent crown of paliform lobes of the largest corallite is indicated by the white arrow C: Brown knob-shaped colony with bright green oral discs and raised corallites, note the white colouration of the tips of costae teeth, Taravai Island. D: A bright-green knob-shaped colony, Taravai Island. E: Brown encrusting colony with bright-green oral discs and relatively low-lying corallites, note the uniform colouration of the costae, Taravai Island. F: mottled brown encrusting colony with free margins and relatively low-lying corallites, note the uniform colouration of the costae, Taravai Island.

Variation of shape, spikiness of septa and costae, and colouration of large colonies Echinophyllia tarae sp. n. observed in situ. A: Brown encrusting colony with free margins, bright green oral discs and raised corallites, Akamaru Island. B: Brown encrusting colony with white oral discs, raised corallites (larger one in the stippled circle), and very spiky costae, Taravai Island, the prominent crown of paliform lobes of the largest corallite is indicated by the white arrow C: Brown knob-shaped colony with bright green oral discs and raised corallites, note the white colouration of the tips of costae teeth, Taravai Island. D: A bright-green knob-shaped colony, Taravai Island. E: Brown encrusting colony with bright-green oral discs and relatively low-lying corallites, note the uniform colouration of the costae, Taravai Island. F: mottled brown encrusting colony with free margins and relatively low-lying corallites, note the uniform colouration of the costae, Taravai Island.

Says the author: “The species is characterized by a high intraspecific variation of several morphologicaltraits. It also shows typical features that distinguish it from the otherEchinophyllia species and from Echinomorpha nishihirai, such as the dimensions and the protrusion of the largest corallite (centrally located in flat colonies), the thickness of the septa, and the development of the crown of paliform lobes. Although the new species is common in the Gambier Islands, its occurrence elsewhere is unknown. The sampling of coral tissue from the type specimens of E. tarae sp. n. will allow molecular analyses in order to examine its phylogenetic relationships with its congeners and other species in the Lobophylliidae.”

The new species was discovered during the 2011 Tara Oceans Scientific Expedition with MV Tara, the first new study of cnidarians in the Gambier Islands since the mid-1970s.

Sources

Echinophyllia tarae sp. n. (Cnidaria, Anthozoa, Scleractinia), a new reef coral species from the Gambier Islands, French Polynesia
Francesca Benzoni
ZooKeys 318: 59–79 (2013)
doi: 10.3897/zookeys.318.5351
www.zookeys.org

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August 5, 2013 - 8:48 AM No Comments

New Coral Magazine article

The Classroom Ocean – Club Impacts Far and Wide

01 Jul, 2013

Online supplemental content for The Classroom Ocean, by Nate Wilson, published in theJuly/August 2013 Issue of CORAL Magazine.
Supplemental #1 | Supplemental #2

7th Grade Biology Teacher Dwayne Kalinay stands between two of the reef tanks in his classroom.

Seventh Grade Biology Teacher Dwayne Kalinay stands between two of the reef tanks in his classroom.

The Reef Conservation Society’s Tanks for Schools program was featured in the July/August 2013 issue of CORAL Magazine. This program was started at Williamsport High School under the leadership of Lawrence Flint, a Physics and Chemistry teacher at Williamsport as well as the Vice President of Education for the Reef Conservation Society. In a prior installment, we visited the Walnut Street Christian School in Avis, PA.

Another teacher who involved in the Tanks in Schools program is Dwayne Kalinay. Kalinay teaches 124 seventh graders at Lake Lehman Jr. Sr. High School outside of Lehman, PA. His classroom resembles a small zoo. Aside from maintaining three reef tanks the class also raises and breeds African Cichlids, as well as keeping Snapping Turtles, Red Slider turtles, Anoles, Bearded Dragons, and millipedes in a host of tanks throughout the room.

As a second year teacher working in another district, Kalinay started his own classroom tank. He quickly realized how expensive it was. “I must have spent my first year salary on things for the class room. But it really helps to have things like this,” He gestures around the classroom, “to keep the kids interested.” When Kalinay started working at Lake Lehman he found out about RCS and the Tanks in School program.

The reefs in his classroom took off from there because of the additional knowledge and support available from the club. Every year since then Kalinay has added a new tank. “We started with the 90 gallon and then plumbed that together with the 110. Last summer we added the 65-gallon.” Both Kalinay and Larry are proud of the 65 because it has zero impact on the wild reefs and was set up like the tank at Walnut St; mined rock seeded in the Williamsport systems, fragged coral and a pair of tank raised clown fish.

A reef tank with zero initial impact on the Oceans, the 65 gallon reef at Lake Lehman Jr. Sr. High School was set up with seeded dry rock, propagated coral frags, and tank raised clownfish.

A reef tank with zero initial impact on the Oceans, the 65 gallon reef at Lake Lehman Jr. Sr. High School was set up with seeded dry rock, propagated coral frags, and tank raised clownfish.

The tanks at Lehman are very popular with the students and are used not just by Kalinay’s biology classes but also by other science, art, and life skills classes. Because of the tanks and his class being extremely interactive Kalinay’s room is often used for student and parent orientations. It has also become a popular stop on most school visits.

Like the reef tanks in other schools supported by the club, Kalinay’s aquariums are an excellent teaching resource. A reef tank can be used to teach many science concepts such as interaction, relationships, biotic and abiotic factors, parasitism, symbiosis, and adaptation. Students discuss and learn about why reef creatures are often more brightly colored than freshwater fishes and invertebrates. “Not all these elements are part of what needs to be taught in seventh grade science. But,” Kalinay says, “they can be taught and help the students to better understand how the ecosystem in a reef tank functions.”

A colony of mushrooms in the classroom reef tanks at Lake Lehman Jr./Sr. High School.

A colony of mushrooms in the classroom reef tanks at Lake Lehman Jr./Sr. High School.

Being able to teach students a skill through a hands on experience is often more engaging then a worksheet or an exercise that appears to exist ‘just because’. Kalinay explains it this way. “ As a kid what would you rather do measure a line in the hallway or measure a glass box with star fish and clown fish swimming along the side? With a tank I can have the students measure it and then calculate volume. It’s a real world application and the more hands on stuff you can do the more it mixes things up for them and keeps them interested in learning.You have to remember that 7th graders are 12 years old.”

Like Larry Flint, Kalinay is also hands on. The LEDs over the 65-gallon tank were put together by students in his class. “It is just another example of real-world learning; they are 12 and 13 years old and they have built a lighting fixture. With the tanks we can talk about all kinds of stuff and they now have a place to draw experience from. It’s practical learning, not just picking from choices A-E. “

By taking care of the reef tanks the students also learn to appreciate wild reefs. They see how small things have big impacts. Kalinay says that he is surprised how invested kids become in the tank.

“When something goes wrong they react to it. One year I had a fish die and there were kids who cried about it. They had watched it and fed it all year and it upset them. Sometimes you have pieces of coral that start to lighten up and bleach. They get upset. It shows that they care about whats happening in the tank and that they know what bleaching is. That is something they can read about in a newspaper article and now they understand from experience. It’s tremendous that they know about it is because they learned it here with the tanks. We try to figure out what happened and they see how a small change in something like alkalinity or pH affects the whole system.”

Kalinay’s honors students learn how to frag coral using bone cutters to cut pieces from a larger colony. They then super glue each frag onto rubble rock or ceramic plugs. Students will grow the frags out in a 40 gallon tank located in the supply closet. They measure growth to practice their metrics skills and use iPads to take photos and document the changes from week to week. Careers in science are also touched upon by studying the classroom reefs. Kalinay has the kids read an article about coral farming and restoration in Florida, and then ties it in with what they are doing in the frag tank.

A close up of leather coral growing in the tanks at Lake Lehman Jr. Sr. High School.

A close up of leather coral growing in the tanks at Lake Lehman Jr. Sr. High School.

“They learn about conservation and sustainability by fragging the coral that we have here. We know from reading about the coral farming and restoration that we can rebuild a reef. By exposing students to a captive reef, something that they really don’t get to see here in Pennsylvania, they learn to value wild ones. If they value it they are more likely realize that we should try and preserve them.”

By fragging coral and selling it to local hobbyists and pet shops, Kalinay is also able to show his students that keeping a reef can be sustainable. Money from sales of coral goes back into the class room systems. Raising the frags becomes more than just a teaching tool showing how an organism propagates asexually, or how to measure its growth. Students gain the realization that what they are doing helps maintain their own classroom reef . Kalinay states, “The kids see that what we do is important to our own reef. We take the frags we make here and we sell them. The money goes back into our tanks to keep them supplied. I have used the money for things like more coral cutters in the past and now I am saving to upgrade the 90 and the 110 with LED lighting. On the other side of it the people who buy the coral get a piece that didn’t come out of the oceans. “

Teacher Dwayne Kalinay reaches into the 65 gallon mini reef in his classroom.

Teacher Dwayne Kalinay reaches into the 65 gallon mini reef in his classroom.

When asked how much the kids help with the tanks outside of class, Kalinay says that there are four or five past students that take time out of their lunch or study halls to come down and help out. “Aside from the initial set-ups or moving around rock I don’t really touch the tanks anymore. The students do everything; testing, dosing, feeding and cleaning the glass. After three years we have it down to an exact science. I don’t have to come in and check after the weekend to make sure everything is still alive. It’s a good feeling”

Next year Kalinay plans on expanding his setup even further. “I am looking to add a 75-gallon tank. My plan is to have it viewable from all sides. Then I want to rearrange the tanks I have now. The 110 is going to be a predator tank so that the kids can see a different aspect of life on the reef.”

Orchid Dottyback

Orchid Dottyback

Having the club provide support is invaluable to Kalinay and other teachers involved in the program. In an era, where public education budgets have been decimated across Pennsylvania and the country, Kalinay is happy to point this out. “I know that I will be able to get the rock and the initial livestock for the next tank from Larry. The club really makes this sustainable. It’s not doable on this scale otherwise. The way that Larry has it set up is great. They have provided me with the past three years’ worth of supplies, coral, clownfish, rock, and frags. They donated the tanks. Each year I get money for supplies like food, dosing chemicals, etc. They give us salt from Reef Crystals and they have no restrictions about who I buy my supplies from. They are very trusting. I send them pictures every few months as a show of good faith that I am taking care of things. Larry comes down like once a year to see how things are. If I want help setting up a tank or have questions I know that he (Larry) is there.”

“If I want help setting up a tank or have questions I know that he is there. “ That statement sums up what Larry Flint and the club are doing. Landlocked in Pennsylvania, Flint and the Reef Conservation Society are working to save the wild reefs by being there, doing what they can; building awareness and appreciation one school tank at a time.

The 110 Gallon tank at Lake Lehman Jr. /Sr. High School

The 110 Gallon tank at Lake Lehman Jr. /Sr. High School

The Reef Conservation Society continually seeks to build relationships with new school sites and interested partners. You can view more about the club’s Tanks in Schools program atwww.ReefConservationSociety.org .

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July 29, 2013 - 8:26 AM No Comments

Banggai Rescue – Sneak Preview

Set to launch at the Marine Aquarium Conference of North America (MACNA 2013) in South Florida, The Banggai Cardinalfish book represents almost two years’ of work and the involvement of hundreds of saltwater aquarists, marine biologists, aquarium industry leaders, and many conservation-minded supporters.

The Banggai Cardinalfish, 304 pages, Hardcover $44.95, Quality Softcover $34.95.

The Banggai Cardinalfish, 304 pages, Hardcover $44.95, Quality Softcover $34.95.

For a preview of the book, see this video by Matt Pedersen that runs through the entire 304 pages in about a minute and shows the scope of the international Banggai Rescue Project.

The book will be distributed by Julian Sprung and Two Little Fishies in partnership with Reef to Rainforest Media, publishers of CORAL and AMAZONAS Magazines.

“This book should make us all proud to be marine aquarists,” says Editor & Publisher James Lawrence. “The marine aquarium community has rallied to respond to a situation in which a uniquely beautiful and fascinating fish has been threatened by unregulated collection in a remote archipelago in Indonesia. We have unwittingly been part of the problem, but now we can feel that we are part of the solution.”

“Perhaps the most important outcome of the Project so far has been the collaboration between our science team and their counterparts in Indonesia who are working to reform the Banggai Cardinal fishery while supporting the livelihoods of indigenous fishers in their own waters.”

Book Credits::

Ret Talbot • Matt Pedersen • Matthew L. Wittenrich, Ph.D.

Foreword by Dr. Gerald R. Allen

with Martin A. Moe, Jr., Roy Yanong, V.M.D., and Thomas Waltzek, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Publishing Team:

Edited by James M. Lawrence

Designed by Linda Provost

Production: Anne Linton Elston

Copyediting: Louise WatsonAlex Bunten

Business Manager: Judith R. Billard

Project Corporate Sponsors

Books will be available at MACNA, August 30 to September 1 at the Two Little Fishies booth.

Announcements coming soon about how to order the book.

Source: Banggai-Rescue.com

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July 23, 2013 - 10:04 AM No Comments

New from Amazonas Magazine…

New Killifish Species from Cameroon

21 Jun, 2013

New Central African killifish described as Aphyosemion pamaense. Image: Rudolf Pohlmann, courtesy www.chromaphyosemion.be

New Central African killifish described as Aphyosemion pamaense. Image: © Rudolf Pohlmann, courtesy www.chromaphyosemion.be | Creative Commons

A strikingly handsome new species of killifish from the Pama River, a small tributary of the Nyong River flowing into the Gulf of Guinea in Central Africa’s Republic of Cameroon has been described by a team of European researchers.

The authors, from France’s Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution, Université Montpellier, describe the fish’s distinctive orange and blue-grey pigmentation and report that DNA testing has found that the new species is “genetically differentiated from all the other Chromaphyosemion species.” The official description appears in the journal ZOOTAXA, 3670 (4): 516-530.

The fish was first collected in 2007 Jean-Francois Agnese followed by additional field research in 2008 and 2010.

Information on the subgenus Chromaphyosemion, native to ponds and small rivers in West Africa, can be found on the All About Chromaphyosemion web site.

ARTICLE
Published 14 June 2013, ZOOTAXA

Aphyosemion pamaense, a new killifish species (Cyprinodontiformes: Nothobranchiidae) from Cameroon
JEAN-FRANCOIS AGNESE, OLIVIER LEGROS, BENOITE CAZAUX, GUILLAIN ESTIVALS
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11646%2Fzootaxa.3670.4.6

Abstract

Aphyosemion pamaense sp. nov. is described from the Pama River, a small tributary of the Nyong, in the surroundings of Pama, Cameroon. It belongs to the subgenus Chromaphyosemion Radda, 1971 and is distinguished from its relatives by a unique/diagnostic combination of characters: orange unpaired fins, an anal fin without spots, an orange throat and purple to blue-grey flanks. The new species is also genetically differentiated from all the other Chromaphyosemion species as revealed by mtDNA (cytochrome b) analysis and characterised by a unique karyotype showing tentative sex chromosomes with 2n=35 chromosomes in males versus 2n=36 in females.

Further Information

All About Chromaphyosemion an evolving website for “killiphiles” published in French, but with translation available via Google Translate. Copyright © 1998-2013 – Olivier Legros.

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June 29, 2013 - 9:39 AM No Comments

New from Amazonas Magazine…

India’s Underground Fish Trade

28 Jun, 2013

Redline Torpedo Barbs, Puntius denisonii. Image: Melanocromis.

Redline Torpedo Barbs, Puntius denisonii. Image: Melanocromis.

New Paper Suggests Sustainability is Not Just a Discussion for Saltwater Aquarists

By Ret Talbot

Over the past few years, freshwater aquarists may have noticed activists increasingly targeting their saltwater counterparts, seeking, for example, the complete ban on marine aquarium fish collection and exports from Hawaii. Other advocacy groups are attempting to have some common fish and coral species protected under the Endangered Species Act.

While many attacks on the marine aquarium trade are bluster born of emotion and largely devoid of accurate scientific data, there do exist real concerns about the overall sustainability of the global marine aquarium trade. Those concerns are, in the best of cases, spurring discussions amongst stakeholders—amateur aquarists, importers, representatives of public aquaria—about the future of the trade and its impacts on ecosystems, fishers and fisher communities in impoverished developing island nations.

The same level of debate is not occurring amongst freshwater aquarists. This is generally assumed to be because the freshwater trade is primarily reliant on aquacultured livestock, not animals collected from the wild.

While roughly 90 percent of the marine aquarium trade’s animals originate on reefs, only about 10 percent of freshwater aquarium fishes have ever seen a natural ecosystem. Is the freshwater trade therefore above reproach when it comes to sustainability? Perhaps not: A paper just published in the journal Biological Conservation about India’s freshwater aquarium trade is the most recent paper to document problems that may warrant freshwater aquarists taking a more active role in the aquarium sustainability dialog.

Dawkinsia rohani. Image by Tabrez Sheriff posted on the Kolkata Aquarium Club site.

Dawkinsia rohani. Image by Tabrez Sheriff posted on the Kolkata Aquarium Club site.

Threatened and Endangered Endemic Fishes

At the heart of the Biological Conservation paper is the concern that India’s freshwater aquarium trade is having a detrimental impact on endangered, highly endemic fishes frequently harvested and exported for aquarium usage.

Just shy of one-third of all freshwater fishes exported from India for the aquarium trade between 2005-2012—the paper pegs the number at about 1.5 million animals—are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as either threatened or endangered. While some of these 30 species are exported in small numbers, others such as the Malabar Pufferfish (Carinotetraodon travancoricus), Zebra Loaches (Botia striata), Denison Barbs (Puntius denisonii) and P. chalakkudiensis (the latter two commonly called Redlined Torpedo Barbs or RLTBs) are exported in relatively large numbers. Most of the fishes are exported to Southeast Asian markets, where some are re-exported—many no longer bearing their country of origin information—to North America and Europe.

In addition to the aquarium trade’s impact on threatened and endangered species, the paper explores the impact on India’s endemic species. According to lead author, Rajeev Raghavan of University of Kent’s Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) in the United Kingdom, at least 22 endemic species of freshwater fishes are threatened by India’s aquarium trade. While nine of them show a continuing decline in their populations, they continue to be harvested with very little (if any) science-based, adaptive fishery management in place. What little regulation has been put in place following several years of growing concern about these fisheries is, according to the paper, routinely subverted or simply ignored.

An Obscure, Open-Access Trade

The trouble with India’s freshwater fishery is alluded to in the paper’s title—“Uncovering an obscure trade: Threatened freshwater fishes and aquarium pet markets.” “Obscurity,” in one form or another, is a common problem when it comes to resource management in developing nations with resource extraction industries like forestry and fisheries. Lack of management, lack of transparency, lack of scientific data, and lack of regulation all contribute to the precarious position of vulnerable natural resources.

While there have been some efforts to protect endangered endemic fishes in India, fishers—and even more importantly middlemen who purchase from fishers—have proven effective at circumventing regulations. In several examples cited in the paper, endangered species only existing in protected areas where no fishing is allowed are being exported for the aquarium trade.

“In India,” Raghavan and his co-authors write, “the country that harbors the most number of endemic freshwater fishes in continental Asia, collection of such species for the aquarium trade is entirely open-access, unregulated and even encouraged by certain governmental and semi-governmental agencies.”

The paper focuses on the example of the RLTBs, “whose unmanaged collection during the last two decades is associated with severe population declines and an ‘Endangered’ listing in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.” As the authors of the paper recount, the growing global concerns about this fishery did in fact lead to increased regulation in India. In 2008, in the southern Indian state of Kerala, the Department of Fisheries issued a government order, which restricted collection and exports and applied several adaptive management tools. “[R]ecent studies indicate that these regulations were developed with minimum scientific input and offer little protection for the species,” say the authors. For example, a closed season was established based on assumptions about when the fishes breed, but scientific study has shown the assumed breeding times are incorrect. Further, with a lack of reliable, comprehensive data about the trade, it has been difficult to set effective quotas and size restrictions.

The Orange-spotted Snakehead, Channa aurantimaculata. Image by Melanochromis.

The Orange-spotted Snakehead, Channa aurantimaculata. Image by Melanochromis.

Speculation Rather Than Facts?

Raghaven is not without his critics, and some of them worry the paper focuses undue and disproportionate attention on the aquarium trade as the primary threat to the species in question. They point out the data presented in the paper is, at best, incomplete, and without complete data, it is easy to extrapolate conclusions that lack context and are more speculation than fact. They maintain India’s freshwater aquarium trade is “not an obscure one” and that the Marine Products Exports Development Authority (MPDEA) under the Commerce Ministry in India, while not perfect, is doing a competent job of managing the trade. “The fact that the authors were not able to take data from MPEDA and customs in Kochi, India does not mean that the customs and MPEDA do not maintain these files or records,” says one industry insider in India, contradicting statements made in the paper.

Most of the individuals critical of the paper, many of them industry observers with firsthand knowledge of India’s freshwater fishery, agree in principle with the paper’s thesis—that there are significant problems with the freshwater aquarium fishery—but they warn the situation is far more nuanced than the paper suggests. “Mislabeling species and dodging regulations is business as usual in India’s aquarium trade,” says one stakeholder. “Overfishing is common and management is non-existent, but the situation is not as bad as the paper makes it out to be. It’s a very small number of fish that are collected by fishers.”

Many stakeholders in India and abroad are taking an active role in making the Nation’s freshwater aquarium trade better. Stakeholders are addressing issues such as reporting and oversight, supply chain mortality and a lack of emphasis on breeding India’s endemic species in India. In 2012, The Conference on Sustainable Ornamental Fisheries; Way Forward identified key challenges India’s ornamental fish industry will have to face in the future and recommendations for moving forward with a sustainable freshwater aquarium trade reliant on a combination of wild harvest and aquaculture. Identifying challenges and making recommendations for improvements is an important step as India moves along the path to a more sustainable freshwater aquarium trade, but actually implementing those recommendations is the hard part, especially given the coordination required between government and non-government entities.

As one industry insider in India says, “It is high time that the ornamental fish industry in India stands united and look at this issue of conservation and the conservationists seriously and try to justify if the activities carried out by them fall to a sustainable trade.”

Aquarium Trade Unfairly Singled Out?

Critics of the aquarium livestock industry, both freshwater and marine, have a longstanding habit of singling out the trade when other issues are having a far larger impact on ecosystems and species.

“I am not saying that the information provided by the authors on the state of the indigenous Indian species is wrong,” says an industry observer. “I fear that the situation might indeed be very bad for some of the species. I am also not saying that the ornamental fish trade is innocent. It is very likely that there is overfishing in some—possibly in many—areas. But I do get the feeling that a small-volume, high-value trade has been singled out as an appropriate target because of its visibility, rather than because of its size.”

The paper acknowledges other anthropogenic stressors such as sand mining, construction of dams and pollution from pesticides are all contributing to the crisis for many of these highly endemic fishes. Further, the paper points out, some of the species are targeted as both aquarium fishes and food fishes, and indiscriminate fishing and blast fishing are both relatively common in India.

As is frequently cited by advocates of the aquarium trade, collecting fishes for aquarium usage certainly has an impact, but they maintain it’s very small compared to much more significant assaults on aquatic ecosystems. While this may be true, conservationists point out the impact of even minimal fishing on a species restricted to an extremely small area can be profound. An example cited in the paper is the endangered species Garra hughi, the Cardamon Garra, a stone sucker with an endemic range believed to be less than 300 square kilometers (116 sq. mi.). Should this species really be harvested from its extremely small range for the aquarium trade?

Easy Answers, Easy Targets and Shooting Fishes in Barrels

If the aquarium trade’s impact is so minimal compared to other impacts, why does it receive a disproportionate amount of attention from those claiming to be “speaking for the fishes”—people like Robert Wintner or any of the numerous NGOs with anti-trade agendas. One easy answer to this question is that the aquarium trade is, to use a cliché, the lowest hanging fruit. Largely disorganized, underfunded and fragmented, the aquarium trade has proven relatively ineffective at presenting a unified front with a science-based sustainability platform. To continue with the bad idioms, attacking the aquarium trade is a bit like shooting fish in barrel.

Sea Shepherd Vice-President Robert Wintner is a veteran campaigner against the aquarium trade and its devastating impact on Hawaii reefs. Photo: Deborah Bassett / Sea Shepherd

Sea Shepherd Vice-President Robert “Snorkle Bob” Wintner is a veteran campaigner against the aquarium trade and what he calls its “devastating impact” on Hawaii reefs. Photo: Deborah Bassett / Sea Shepherd

That’s the easy answer—that the trade is an easy target. The far more complex answer must take into account the totality of the trade. Sure, far fewer fishes are harvested for aquaria than are harvested for food, and even the most careless aquarium fisher does considerably less damage than a trawl net or blast fishing. But keeping an aquarium is never framed as a necessity the way eating fish is. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide—many in developing nations—depend on eating fish as a critical source of protein, but how many people’s lives hang on keeping an aquarium?

Most people perceive keeping an aquarium as a pastime or hobby—even a luxury one—and as such the environmental impacts associated with collecting aquarium fishes invite greater scrutiny. The average member of the public—a non-aquarist—hears that endangered, endemic fishes in India are being further threatened by collection for fish tanks, and what is he or she to conclude? Thinking about the aquarium trade this way makes it perhaps a little easier to understand why some people believe the easy answer is that if there is to be an aquarium trade at all, it should be 100-percent dependent on aquaculture.

Aquarium Fisheries as Agents of Positive Change

Of course the easy answer of relying exclusively on the farming of fishes, invertebrates, and plants for the aquarium trade fares no better than other easy answers.

While only a small percentage of freshwater fishes originate in the wild, collection impact can, nonetheless, be significant. For example, a well-documented freshwater aquarium fishery in Brazil is showing how sustainable aquarium fisheries can provide some of the best incentive to conserve critical habitat, while at the same time providing important socio-economic development opportunities that keep local fishers and fisher communities connected to the resource.

Unfortunately, the opposite can also be the case as the paper in Biological Conservation contends. While the fishery in Brazil’s middle Rio Negro basin is a model suggesting more sustainable freshwater aquarium fisheries in the developing world could be a real asset from both an environmental and socio-economic standpoint, India’s freshwater aquarium fishery, as presented in the paper, is an example of what can go wrong when a fishery remains largely unregulated and understudied.

As in the example of Brazil’s middle Rio Negro basin freshwater fishery, we know sustainable aquarium fisheries can be primary drivers behind critical ecosystem conservation. We also know sustainable aquarium fisheries can be very good for fishers and fisher communities from a socio-economic standpoint. In some cases, sustainable aquarium fisheries can be the best, most expedient paths to creating real economic incentive to conserve, and there are already pilot programs and plans to turn India’s freshwater aquarium fishery into a success story similar to the middle Rio Negro basin, but these programs need the support of the aquarium trade and, ultimately, aquarists.

The real answer to all of these complex questions is for those of us who care to have the dialog. Freshwater aquarists, like their saltwater counterparts, need to be thinking more about sustainability in the big picture. They need to engage in discussions at their local fish stores, in their clubs and through the aquarium media. They need to be willing to use their purchasing power at the point of sale to make educated choices that will help move the aquarium trade down the path to greater sustainability. And they must, of course, keep in mind that the clock is always ticking for species like the Zebra Loach, a highly endemic species that is thought to occupy less than 400 square kilometers and yet was identified in the Biological Conservation article as one of India’s main aquarium exports.

About the Author

Ret Talbot writes frequently about sustainability issues and is a senior contributing editor of AMAZONAS and CORAL Magazines. He lives with his wife Karen in Rockland, Maine.

SOURCES

Uncovering an obscure trade: Threatened freshwater fishes and the aquarium pet markets
Rajeev Raghavan | Neelesh Dahanukar | Michael F. Tlusty | Andrew L. Rhyne | K. Krishna Kumar | Sanjay Molur | Alison M. Rosser

Biological Conservation
Volume 164, August 2013, Pages 158–169

ABSTRACT

While the collection of fish for the aquarium pet trade has been flagged as a major threat to wild populations, this link is tenuous for the unregulated wild collection of endemic species because of the lack of quantitative data. In this paper, we examine the extent and magnitude of collection and trade of endemic and threatened freshwater fishes from India for the pet markets, and discuss their conservation implications. Using data on aquarium fishes exported from India, we try to understand nature of the trade in terms of species composition, volume, exit points, and importing countries. Most trade in India is carried out under a generic label of “live aquarium fish”; yet despite this fact, we extracted export data for at least thirty endemic species that are listed as threatened in the IUCN Red List. Of the 1.5million individual threatened freshwater fish exported, the major share was contributed by three species; Botia striata (Endangered), Carinotetraodon travancoricus (Vulnerable) and the Red Lined Torpedo Barbs (a species complex primarily consisting of Puntius denisonii and Puntius chalakkudiensis, both ‘Endangered’). Using the endangered Red Lined Torpedo Barbs as a case study, we demonstrate how existing local regulations on aquarium fish collections and trade are poorly enforced, and are of little conservation value. In spite of the fact that several threatened and conservation concern species are routinely exported, India has yet to frame national legislation on freshwater aquarium trade. Our analysis of the trade in wild caught freshwater fishes from two global biodiversity hotspots provides a first assessment of the trade in endangered and threatened species. We suggest that the unmanaged collections of these endemic species could be a much more severe threat to freshwater biodiversity than hitherto recognized, and present realistic options for management.

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June 29, 2013 - 9:32 AM No Comments

First Batch Of Lightning Clowns are up for Auction…

The First Lightning Maroon Captive-Breds: What Am I Bid?

21 Jun, 2013

First-generation captive-bred "Lightning" Maroon Clownfish. Image copyright © 2013 Matt Pedersen.

First-generation captive-bred “Lightning” Maroon Clownfish. Image copyright © 2013 Matt Pedersen.

Three years after a strikingly pigmented aberrant morph of Premnas biculeatus was collected off Fisherman’s Island in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and quickly made headlines throughout the aquarium world, the first captive-bred Lightning-type offspring are about to reach the open market via an online auction.

Dubbed the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish, the prize catch was imported by Dave Palmer’s Pacific Aqua Farms in Los Angeles and placed with amateur breeder Matt Pedersen through its retail affiliate Blue Zoo Aquatics.  Pedersen was the MASNA Aquarist of the Year in 2009, in recognition of his breakthrough success in acclimating and breeding the Harlequin Filefish,Oxymonacanthus longirostris, an obligate corallivore. (Full disclosure, Pedersen is a CORAL Magazine senior editor.)

Group of F1 young descendants with Lightning Maroon genes. Not all display the distinctive lattice-like white pigment pattern.

Group of F1 young descendants with Lightning Maroon genes. Not all display the distinctive lattice-like white pigment pattern. Image copyright © 2013 Matt Pedersen.

An online auction is set to begin sometime on the weekend beginning June 22nd of a limited number of young Lightning Maroons, as well as several full siblings that display white bars but none of the distinctive dappling of the original wild broodstock. Pedersen says that the first round of bidding will include “five F1 offspring: two with the “Lightning” pattern (and presumably Lightning genetics) and three non-Lightnings with more classic “White Stripe” patterning, the normal 3-stripe form, although one fish in particular has some additional spotting.  (Images of all fish are being posted on the Lightning Maroon blogsite.)

According to Blue Zoo Aquatics director Mark Martin, “These F1 PNG beauties are the only available PNG bloodline Maroon Clownfish left on the market AND they are the first Lightning patterned clownfish to hit the market since Mama Lightning was imported and sold to Matt almost three years ago. The auctions will be open to anybody with an eBay account in the US and the first shipments to the lucky winners will hit around the first week of July.”

Details of the auction can be found on the Blue Zoo site. Martin invites interested aquarists to sign up for newsletter updates. More details on the breeding of the fish can be found on Matt Pedersen’s blog, The Lightning Project.

Breeding Considerations

“Since we don’t know how Lightning genetics work,” says Pedersen, “I cannot say whether the regularly patterned siblings carry an important Lightning genetic component (like a hidden recessive gene) or not.  It is my hunch, however, that the Lightning trait is either a dominant or partially dominant trait, although with the 50/50 split (Lightnings to “Classic Maroons”) in the first generation offspring, the possibility of a recessive trait is there.

Future Stock Available?

Will more be coming? “If things go well with the initial five being auctioned by Blue Zoo, there are approximately 25 additional siblings that we’ll sell in this manner,” says Pedersen.

His Lightning broodstock are on hiatus right now, following the recent birth of Matt and Renee Pedersen’s second child, a daughter named Audrey.

Lightning Project blog is a journal documenting the challenges and successes of Matt Pedersen encountered in his attempts to breed this unusual clownfish.

Lightning Project blog is a journal documenting the challenges and successes of Matt Pedersen encountered in his attempts to breed this unusual clownfish.

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June 25, 2013 - 3:43 PM No Comments

New Tetra Discovered - from Amazonas Magazine.

New See-Through Nano Tetra Discovered

12 Jun, 2013

Cyanogaster noctivaga, the Blue-bellied Night Wanderer Tetra.

Cyanogaster noctivaga, the Blue-bellied Night Wanderer Tetra. All images by Dr. Ralf Britz, Natural History Museum, London, UK.

“It is a strange little animal, completely transparent with an otherwise unique colour pattern,” says London Natural History Museum fish ichthyologist Dr. Ralf Britz of a tiny new tetra he helped identify and name.

It’s been dubbed the Blue-bellied Night Wanderer, Cyanogaster noctivagaCyanogaster meaning blue belly and noctivaga meaning night wanderer. It is 17mm long, and in addition to its bright blue belly, it has large eyes, and unusual-looking snout, mouth and teeth.

Dr.-Ralf-BritzIt is only 7mm longer than the world’s smallest fish, and seems to only appear at night, but the bright blue belly of a miniscule Amazonian fish caught the eye of a team of scientists who spotted that it was a new species and genus.

Britz worked with expedition leader Monica Toledo-Piza, George Mattox and Manoela Marinho from the University of Sao Paulo (USP), Brazil, on the scientific expedition in 2011, with the fish’s scientific description recently published in 2013 in the journal Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters. Britz is an AMAZONAS contributor and a world-renowned expert on tiny fishes.

Rio Negro, the largest tributary of the Amazon River. Red dot indicates location where the new tetra was collected.

Rio Negro, the largest tributary of the Amazon River. Red dot indicates location where the new tetra was collected.

The blue-bellied fish was discovered in the Rio Negro, the largest tributary of the Amazon River. This area of the Amazon basin is probably one of the best explored, so finding not only a new species but a new genus too, was quite a surprise.

The team could only find the blue-bellied fish in one place on the Rio Negro, and it could only be found at night. “The fish appeared as a fast swimming blue streak in the net,” says Britz.

Not only was the fish hard to find, but as soon as it was lifted out of the net it died. In order to get a photo of the live fish to show its unique colouration, Britz had to improvise.

‘I set up a photo tank right at the shoreline with the camera and flashes ready to shoot. Then my colleague George and I went into the water and pulled the net towards the shoreline. I then used a large spoon to scoop them out of the net and transfer them into the photo tank without lifting them out of the water.’

World’s smallest fish similarities

The Blue-bellied Night Wanderer is tiny, but how does it compare to the world’s smallest fish, which Britz helped study in 2006?

“The largest Cyanogaster individual we collected was 17.4 mm long, which is about 7 mm longer than the largest Paedocypris progenetica.”

The two little fish seem to prefer similar habitats too. Britz explains, “The Rio Negro in Brazil, like the Asian peat swamp forests, has acidic blackwaters and like the peat swamps, it harbours a large number of miniature species.

“Small size seems to be favoured in mineral-poor water and Cyanogaster is another example of this rule.”

Strange teeth

The number and shape of teeth, or dentition, is very useful for naming and classifying fish and especially those of the order Characiformes, the group the blue-bellied night wanderer belongs to.

The fish skeleton is stained to make it easier to study its tiny structure, which is only 7mm longer than the world's smallest fish.

The fish skeleton is stained to make it easier to study its tiny structure, which is only 7mm longer than the world’s smallest fish.

The blue belly has 2 rows of teeth in the upper jaw, an inner and outer. There are only 4 teeth with several cusps (cusps are the tips) in the inner row and 1 conical tooth (only one cusp) in the outer row.

The blue-bellied fish has a unique dentition, number and shape of the teeth in the upper jaw – a single conical tooth in the outer row (marked with a dotted line) and 4 teeth in the inner row.

“All other members of the subfamily Stevardiinae and actually most members of the family Characidae have a different number and arrangement of teeth. So this helps to demonstrate that our little ‘bluebelly’ is something quite different, a new genus,” says Britz.

More specimens found

And there was a final surprise. While the scientific description of the new fish was being prepared, more specimens of the fish were discovered.

Britz explains, “My Brazilian colleagues found a few specimens in the museum collection in Sao Paulo, (Museu de Zoologia, Universidade de São Paulo), which were collected as early as 1980, but had remained unidentified.”

Britz concludes, “This demonstrates again the importance of maintaining museum collections, in which previously unknown diversity can still be discovered.”

Source:
From materials released by the Natural History Museum, London, UK

http://www.nhm.ac.uk/

All images courtesy the Natural History Museum.

Once dead and preserved, the colour is lost, as seen in this museum specimen collected by the expedition.

Once dead and preserved, the colour is lost, as seen in this museum specimen collected by the expedition.

Reference
Cyanogaster noctivaga, a remarkable new genus and species of miniature fish from the Rio Negro, Amazon basin (Ostariophysi: Characidae)
George M. T. Mattox, Ralf Britz, Mônica Toledo-Piza and Manoela M. F. Marinho

Ichthyol. Explor. Freshwaters, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp. 297-318, 11 figs., 1 tab., March 2013
© 2013 by Verlag Dr. Friedrich Pfeil, München, Germany

Cyanogaster noctivaga, new genus, new species, is described from the Rio Negro, Brazil. It
is a miniature fish of the Characidae belonging to the Stevardiinae based on the presence of ii + 8 dorsal-fin rays and four teeth in the inner premaxillary tooth series. The new taxon can be distinguished from all other members of the Stevardiinae by having the reduced number of i + 5 pelvic-fin rays and the presence of a single conical tooth in the outer pre-maxillary tooth series. Other non-exclusive diagnostic features of Cyanogaster within the Stevardiinae are the lack of maxillary teeth, the incomplete lateral line, transparency of the body and conspicuous blue abdominal region. Mature males have hooks on the pelvic- and anal-fin rays. A detailed osteological description of the new genus and species is is presented with comments on its putative relationships.

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June 17, 2013 - 8:42 AM No Comments

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