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Deep-sea fish taxonomy and systematics continued

MAR-ECO scientists might have found a new species of Lycodonus belonging to the eelpouts (family Zoarcidae). The four specimens that were caught during the MAR-ECO cruise in 2004 differs from the two species known from the north Atlantic.

By Franz Uiblein and Peter Rask Møller

The discovery was made while identifying ophidiiform and other deep-sea fishes caught on the MAR-ECO cruise on the Mid Atlantic Ridge by R/V G.O. Sars and the commercial longliner MS Loran in 2004. At this April workshop Ingvar Byrkjedal (Bergen Museum), Peter Rask Møller (Zoological Museum of Copenhagen), Jørgen Nielsen (Zoological Museum of Copenhagen), and Franz Uiblein (Institute of Marine Research) were participating.

During the workshop MAR-ECO material of several fish families were identified to species level: Alepisauridae, Aphyonidae, Bothidae, Bythitidae, Caristiidae, Cetomimidae, Chimaeridae, Eurypharyngidae, Halosauridae, Ipnopidae, Liparidae, Moridae, Nomeidae, Notacanthidae, Notosudidae, Ophidiidae, Percichthyidae, Rhinochimaeridae, Rondeletiidae, Saccopharyngidae and Zoarcidae. Most of the specimens belonging to these families could be identified at Bergen museum, but a few specimens from mainly the order Ophidiiformes and the families Zoarcidae and Liparidae need to be studied further. This will be done with the aid of x-ray techniques at Zoological Museum of Copenhagen.

Related to the results of this workshop, several research projects emerged:

Description of a new species of Lycodonus (Zoarcidae)
Four specimens were caught during the G.O. Sars cruise in 2004. These have now been x-rayed, counted and measured and they seem to represent a new species, clearly different from the two species known from the north Atlantic, e.g., from L. flagellicauda and L. mirabilis in number of fin rays and vertebrae.

It is similar to L. vermiformes from off South Africa in countable (= merisitc) and body shape (= morphometric) characters, but differs considerably by the fewer scales on the body.  Peter Rask Møller, Ingvar Byrkjedal, and Franz Uiblein will try to borrow more material from South Africa, in order to make sure that this difference is consistent, before they submit the description of the new species.
Ophidiiform fishes
Based on the ophidiform fishes caught on the Mid Atlantic Ridge by MAR-ECO in 2004, Franz Uiblein, Peter Rask Møller and Jørgen Nielsen will publish  new records of ophidiiform fishes in an annotated check-list, with comments on the main characters used for identification and details of the distribution patterns.

Taxonomy of Spectrunculus (Ophidiidae)
59 specimens of the genus Spectrunculus was examined and photographed. Meanwhile, based on preliminary studies with aid from two bachelor students of the University of Copenhagen, differences have been found between dark and pale specimens indicating the existence of two taxa, but Franz Uiblein, Inge Fossen, Peter Rask Møller and Jørgen Nielsen will carry out further analyses including also more comparative material to arrive at a definitive conclusion. This study will include meristics (partly based on x-raying), morphometrics (incl. otolith morphology), and genetic analyses.

Phylogeny of ophidiiformes
Tissue samples from the ophidiiformes caught by R/V G.O. Sars 2004, will be used together with samples from many other sources, in a comprehensive molecular phylogenetic study of the order. The study is conducted in Copenhagen and Adelaide in 2005-2006 by Peter Rask Møller, Jørgen Nielsen, Franz Uiblein and others. 

Jørgen Nielsen and Peter Møller taking the otoliths of a specimen of Spectrunculus grandis for further taxonomic examination

Specimens of the genus Spectrunculus, (Ophidiidae, Ophidiiformes) collected during the MAR-ECO cruise in 2004

Gunnar Langhelle (assistant fish curator, Bergen Museum), Otte Bjelland (fish biologist, IMR, Bergen), Erlend Langhelle (fish collection assistant), and Jørgen Nielsen (ichthyologist, Zoological Museum, Copenhagen) discussing the treatment of MAR-ECO fish samples during the workshop in April 2005

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