Catfish study reveals multiplicity of species

Jan 05, 2011

Peer into any stream in a South American rainforest and you may well see a small shoal of similar-looking miniature catfish. But don't be fooled into thinking that they are all the same species.

An extensive investigation of South American Corydoras , (reported in Nature today), reveals that catfish communities- although containing almost identically coloured and patterned fish, could actually contain three or more different .

Establishing for the first time that many species are mimetic; that is, they evolve to share the same colour patterns for mutual benefit- the research also established that each individual community of similar looking fish comprised species belonging to different genetic lineages, but still adopting similar colour patterns.

This discovery suggests that in many cases the number of Corydoras catfish species may be higher than previously recognised. This has consequent implications for environmentalists charged with protecting environmental diversity and safeguarding the species.

This increases the challenge of conserving these species at a time when many South American rivers are experiencing large scale development involving damn building, and destruction or contamination of habitats.

Markos Alexandrou, PhD student at Bangor University and one of the paper's authors said: "Although appearing identical in terms of colour pattern, our in-depth assessments of , diet, and colour patterns of the fish revealed that 92% of the communities we sampled comprised species that do not compete for resources.

Dr Martin Taylor, project leader at the University's School of Biological Sciences said: "This research highlights the hidden diversity and complexity found within neotropical freshwater ecosystems. Unfortunately, these habitats are also under extreme pressure from human activities."

Claudio Oliveira of project partners, (UNESP, Botucatu, Brazil) said: "Besides the unknown biodiversity and interesting evolutionary system revealed by this study, it reinforces the urgent need to preserve and manage South American environments to avoid the loss of many species yet to be discovered and described."

Explore further: New research reveals fish are smarter than we thought

More information: ‘Competition and phylogeny determine community structure in Müllerian co-mimics’ has been scheduled for publication in Nature on 06 January 2011.

Related Stories

Painting by numbers

Sep 29, 2006

Professor Richard ffrench-Constant of the University of Exeter in Cornwall has worked with an international team of experts to ‘decode’ the patterns on butterflies’ wings.

Fish use electric signals to find the right mate

Jun 11, 2009

Electric knifefish, close relatives of the electric eel, navigate and communicate by projecting electric fields around their bodies. Research at University of Toronto is clarifying how this sense has evolved, as well as providing ...

Poisonous Poisson

Dec 04, 2009

In contrast to the exhaustive research into venom produced by snakes and spiders, venomous fish have been neglected and remain something of a mystery. Now, a study of 158 catfish species, published in the ...

Genetic study finds treasure trove of new lizards

Mar 04, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- University of Adelaide research has discovered that there are many more species of Australian lizards than previously thought, raising new questions about conservation and management of Australia's ...

Recommended for you

Science casts light on sex in the orchard

10 hours ago

Persimmons are among the small club of plants with separate sexes—individual trees are either male or female. Now scientists at the University of California, Davis, and Kyoto University in Japan have discovered ...

Four new dragon millipedes found in China

11 hours ago

A team of speleobiologists from the South China Agriculture University and the Russian Academy of Sciences have described four new species of the dragon millipedes from southern China, two of which seem to ...

Scientist creates automatic birdsong recognition app

15 hours ago

Dr Dan Stowell, an EPSRC Research Fellow in QMUL's School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has used a grant from Queen Mary Innovation to develop a prototype for an app that turns his research ...

New research reveals fish are smarter than we thought

15 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A new study from researchers in our Department of Psychology with colleagues at Queen Mary University of London has reported the first evidence that fish are able to process multiple objects ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

plaasjaapie
not rated yet Jan 05, 2011
I see the term "genetic relationships" but I don't hear them come out and say that they did anything like a DNA analysis to determine the degree of generic drift in a particular community. Besides, if they can interbreed, they're not different species. I wonder if this crowd checked that ... or even cared?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.