U.S. researchers examining three species of a fish called a blenny, studied for 100 years, say they’ve found they’re actually looking at 10 distinct species.
Scientist from the Smithsonian Institution say a century of study of blennies, native to shallow coral and rock reefs in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific oceans, would suggest there was little left to discover about them, but modern DNA techniques have proved them wrong, a Smithsonian release said Friday.
The longstanding classification of the three species was contradicted by DNA studies of coral reef fish from larvae to adults, finally yielding seven previously unclassified species new to science, the researchers say.
“DNA analysis has offered science a great new resource to examine old questions,” said Carole Baldwin, a zoologist at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. “This discovery is a perfect example of how DNA barcoding is illuminating species that we’ve missed before, particularly small cryptic reef fishes like Starksia blennies.
“We don’t know where we stand in terms of understanding species diversity, and our work suggests that current concepts may be surprisingly incomplete,” she said.
Because the ability of marine populations to resist human exploitation may be linked to species richness, the researchers say, an improved understanding of the diversity and distribution of deep-reef life may be critical.