Most spectacular new (fish) species of 2009

June 18th, 2010 by Michael Noren

The International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE) has published its annual list of the ten most spectacular or interesting species discovered in the last year, and three species of fish made the list. They are interesting not only in their own right, but as it happens they also represent three areas of research where a lot of species are yet to be discovered.

Dracula minnow

Adult male Dracula minnow, less than 20 millimeters long. Photo: Mike Noren.

The Dracula minnow (Danionella dracula)
The Dracula minnow is a miniature fish, less than 20 millimeters long, from northern Myanmar, where it lives in relatively cool and fast-flowing streams. The name refers to the long “fangs” of the males, which reminded the scientist who discovered it of the canine teeth of the vampire Dracula. The “fangs” are, however, not used for blood-sucking, but may be used in fights between males, or perhaps during courtship and spawning. The Dracula minnow is one of a number of tiny miniature species of fish discovered in recent years, and without doubt many still await discovery.

Psychedelic frogfish. Photo: David Hall /

Psychedelic frogfish. Photo: David Hall /

Psychedelic frogfish (Histiophryne psychedelica)

Not all recently discovered species are small or inconspicuous, as the Psychedelic frogfish proves. Frogfish are small predators who spend most of their time among rocks, corals or algae, “walking” on their pelvic fins, or waiting in ambush for their prey. Although few frogfish are as spectacular as the Psychedelic frogfish, many are brightly colored but are still surprisingly hard to see when not moving. Not just frogfish, but numerous fish species of all kinds remain to be discovered on coral reefs, especially in the deeper areas of the reefs.

Omar’s banded knifefish

Omar’s banded knifefish (NRM 55841). Photo: Mike Noren.

Omar’s banded knifefish (Gymnotus omarorum)

Omar’s banded knifefish lives in rivers in Uruguay, where it uses electrical fields to communicate with each other, find its way, and detect food among the dense vegetation. For 30 years scientists have used this fish as a model organism for the study of electricity in fishes, all the time believing it to be Banded knifefish (Gymnotus carapo). It may seem odd that researchers could study a species for 30 years without noticing that it was, in fact, a completely different species, but it is common that species with large distributions on closer examination turn out to be several similar species mistakenly lumped together under one name. In the extreme case of the Banded knifefish, it turned out to really be 20 species!


IISE Top Ten Species of 2009

Dracula minnow (Danionella dracula) on FishBase

Psychedelic frogfish (Histiophryne psychedelica) on FishBase

Omar’s banded knifefish (Gymnotus omarorum) on FishBase

The Swedish FishBase Symposium 2009 - Sharks!

August 20th, 2009 by Sven O Kullander

The annual FishBase Symposium organised by the Swedish FishBase team will be arranged on 19 October  2009 at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm.
This year we focus on the fascinating, little known, and highly threatened cartilaginous fishes, in particular the sharks. World renowned experts, among them Eugenie Clark, Leonard V. Compagno, and Sonja Fordham, will present shark research from different perspectives.  Presentations and filsm will be given mainly in English, but some in Swedish.

As usual the FishBase Symposium is open for all. There is no registration fee, and lunch is included. Programme and information about registration will be posted soon. Mark 19 October for FishBase Symposium 2009!

Northeast Atlantic sharks and rays facing extinction

November 11th, 2008 by Sven O Kullander

One quarter of Northeast Atlantic sharks and rays threatened with extinction

First IUCN Red List assessment of all 116 species in the region

The release of the first ever IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ assessment of Northeast Atlantic sharks and closely related rays and chimaeras reveals that 26% are Threatened with extinction, and another 20% are in the Near Threatened category. The total number of threatened species may well be underestimated as there was insufficient information to assess over a quarter (27%) of the species.

The report, released by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group (SSG), is the result of a regional workshop to evaluate the status of the Northeast Atlantic’s “chondrichthyan” species using IUCN Red List Categories and CriteriaTM. The findings reveal that the percentage of shark, ray and chimaera species classified as Threatened (Critically Endangered, Endangered, or Vulnerable) in the Northeast Atlantic is significantly higher than for the than the same statistic globally (26% v. 18%). Specifically, 7% of species in the Northeast Atlantic are classified as Critically Endangered, 7% as Endangered, and 12% as Vulnerable, primarily due to overfishing.

Silky shark, Photo Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch

Silky shark, Carcharhinus falciformis. Global Red List Assessment: Near Threatened. Photo and Copyright © Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch.

“From angel sharks to devil rays, Northeast Atlantic populations of these vulnerable species are in serious trouble, more so than in many other parts of the world”, said Claudine Gibson, former Programme Officer for the IUCN SSG and lead author of the report. “Most sharks and rays are exceptionally vulnerable to overfishing because of their tendency to grow slowly, mature late, and produce few young… “Those at greatest risk of extinction in the Northeast Atlantic include heavily fished, large sharks and rays, like porbeagle and common skate, as well as commercially valuable deepwater sharks and spiny dogfish.”

The European Union (EU) has provided species-specific fishing limits for only four of the region’s 116 chondrichthyans. Basking and great white sharks are legally protected in the EU; catch limits for spiny dogfish and porbeagle sharks exist, but are regularly set in excess of scientific advice. There are broad EU limits on multiple species of skates and rays as well as deepwater sharks, but these are also not yet in line with scientists’ recommendations. The UK and Sweden are the only Northeast Atlantic countries to provide full national protection for certain shark and ray species. Beyond some agreements between the EU and Norway, there are no international catch limits for Northeast Atlantic chondrichthyans.

The coming weeks bring multiple opportunities to improve the status of Northeast Atlantic sharks and rays through meetings of international fisheries and wildlife bodies, the annual process for setting EU quotas, and a long-awaited European Community Plan of Action for sharks and related species. The report includes specific recommendations for conservation action based on scientific advice.

“Never before have European countries had more reason or opportunity to safeguard the beleaguered shark and ray species of the Northeast Atlantic,” said Sonja Fordham, Deputy Chair of the SSG and Policy Director for the Shark Alliance. “Country officials should heed the dire warnings of this report and act to protect threatened sharks and rays at national, regional and international levels. Such action is immediately possible and absolutely necessary to change the current course toward extinction of these remarkable ocean animals.”

Experts from government agencies, universities and private institutions in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Russia, Sweden, Canada and the USA participated in the regional workshop that formed the basis for the report. This and several other regional workshops have contributed to the development of the SSG’s ‘Global Shark Red List Assessment’, supported by Conservation International (CI).  “The completion of this global assessment of sharks and their relatives will provide an important baseline for monitoring the status of these keystone species in our oceans” said Roger McManus, Vice-President for CI’s Marine Programs.