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Fish identification

Rare findings and promising results are the conclusions after the first MAR-ECO Fish Taxonomy workshop, where three major groups were studied; the families of the rattails or grenadiers, the slickheads and the deep-sea eels.

Text: Franz Uiblein. Photo: Thomas de lange Wenneck

A MAR-ECO Fish Taxonomy workshop, held at Espegrend Marine Biological Station, University of Bergen on 21-28 February 2005, was dedicated to the memory of the late Prof. Luiz Saldanha and Dr. Yuri Sazonov, both well-respected deep-sea fish ichthyologists during their lifetimes, who studied the fauna of deep-sea ridges and had immense knowledge on the taxonomy of the three fish families treated during this meeting. The workshop was funded by University of Bergen, Norwegian Research Council, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and MAR-ECO.

Specialists and students participated

Participants (from left): John Galbraith, National Marine Fisheries Service, Woods Hole, MA, USA; Nicola King, Oceanlab, University of Aberdeen, UK; Alexey M. Orlov, VNIRO, Moscow, Russia; Gui Menezes, Departamento de Oceanografia e Pescas, Universidade dos Acores, Horta, Portugal; Franz Uiblein, Institute of Marine Research, Bergen (organizer); Manuel J. Biscoito, Marine Biological Station and Natural History Museum, Funchal, Madeira, Portugal; Guro Gjelsvik, Department of Biology, University of Bergen; Ingvar Byrkjedal, Bergen Museum, University of Bergen (organizer); Tomio Iwamoto, Department of Ichthyology, California Academy of Sciences, San Fransisco, USA and Thomas de lange Wenneck, Institute of Marine Research, Bergen

This was the first of a series of meetings devoted to the identification of the fishes collected during the MAR-ECO cruise on the RV G.O.Sars in June-July 2004. Among the participants were taxonomists with specialist competence on the three major groups studied, the families of the rattails or grenadiers (Macrouridae), the slickheads (Alepocephalidae), and the deep-sea eels (Synaphobranchidae). Also students and scientists involved in ecological studies that are partly based on the fish material identified participated.

After introductory remarks by the organizers, Tomio Iwamoto, John Galbraith and Manuel Biscoito outlined the most important taxonomic characters for identification of the respective groups and provided some practical demonstrations for the participants. Then identification work started with a daily schedule from early morning till late night, interrupted only by meals, a social gathering on Friday evening, and a half-day excursion to Bergen city on Saturday making use of the marvellous weather.

Promising results

The results of the workshop are very promising: 871 specimens belonging to 41 species were examined and the preliminary identification results obtained during the cruise were partly revised. In the most speciouse group, the slickheads, for instance, about one third of the original identification results had to be corrected thus clearly demonstrating the need for this workshop.

Fish material of particular taxonomic and systematic interest was studied into more detail including slickheads of the rare species Micrognathus normani of which only four specimens had been known worldwide. Hence the three individuals collected by MAR-ECO almost doubled this number.

Rare findings

Very interesting were also specimens of the grenadier species Paracetonurus flagellicauda that was originally described based on the collections from the RV Michael Sars-expedition in 1910 and were now encountered again, most probably for the first time since! Also, a member of the genus Kumba, a very rare group of grenadiers, was found. This requires further taxonomic analysis to arrive at a definitive conclusion, if it is an already known species or even new to science.

Taxonomic work continues

At the final day of the workshop the results of the identification work were discussed and plans were made to contribute to a joint publication, an annotated species list, that shall provide an overview of all the fish species collected during the G.O. Sars MAR-ECO cruise. Also, great interest was expressed to present the results of the workshop at the coming MAR-ECO meeting in Lisbon in June 2005 and to evaluate the possibility of further-going studies of the material including systematic revisions, molecular phylogenies of distinct families, and ecological investigations.


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