Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Underwater photographs of closely related species of Chrysiptera (30-35 mm SL): C. giti, Fak Fak Peninsula, western New Guinea (upper left), C. hemicyanea, Raja Ampat Islands, western New Guinea (upper right), C. parasema, El Nido, Philippines (lower left), and C. species B, Madang, Papua New Guinea (lower right). Photos by G. R. Allen.

Have you ever done something you would like to take back? I will tell you a secret - after every REEF FISHES volume that has been published to date (including the new volume on DAMSELFISHES) I wish I had a chance to take it back and make changes! In part, as I mentioned in an earlier post, taxonomic changes often occur during the preparation and publication process. Inevitably, there are journal articles that come out just after these books go to press that can impact the taxonomic standing of various species and proposed synonyms. In fact, one reason the DOTTYBACK volume was delayed was because I was aware that a big revision of the family Pseudochromidae was about to be published by Dr. Anthony Gill and I wanted to wait until it came out so that the scientific binomials in the book were up-to-date. If I had not waited, the dottyback section of the book would have been totally out of date within three months of the book hitting the shelves!

As I mentioned below, I mislabeled a couple of new species of anemonefishes (which I classified simply as color variants) that are going to be raised to species level by Dr. Gerald Allen. But the changes do not stop there. Taxonomic upheaval has recently occurred in one of my favorite Pomacentrid genera, the Chrysiptera (a.k.a. demoiselles). Dr. Gerald Allen (the guru of all that is damsel) came out with a paper a couple of months ago that will cause all of us to re-examine the proposed geographical variants of the most beautiful members of this genus.

For example, in my damselfish book (and in other REEF FISHES books published before it) I use the term Chrysiptera parasema for the yellow-tailed blue demoiselle with yellow pelvic fins. But according to Dr. Allen, this is actually distinct on the species level from the yellow-tailed demoiselle that lacks the yellow pelvics (see photos above which are from Allen and Erdmann 2008). Dr. Allen also described a new, closely related form from West Papua that he named Chrysiptera giti. "What's a giti" you might ask? Two donors that are generously supporting the Conservation International’s Bird’s Head Seascape marine conservation initiative requested it be given that name to honor a family company. Not only is C. parasema being broken up into at least two distinct species, it is also likely that all the various color forms of Chrysiptera cyanea are actually valid species....but we will save that for a future post!

So there you have another example of why I wish I could have a “do-over!” I will keep you abreast of other taxonomic changes that occur and will also provide the new name of the C. parasema-like fish, with the yellow pelvic fins, when it becomes available.

Allen, G. R. and M. V. Erdmann. 2008. A new species of damselfish (Pomacentridae: Chrysiptera) from western New Guinea and the Togean Islands, Indonesia. Aqua Special. Pub. 13 (3-4): 171-178.

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