Discovering a cryptic species pair of deepwater snappers


Etelis sp. Photo credit: Ash Williams

What started out as a project studying the population genetic structure of a commercially important deepwater snapper turned into a project documenting the discovery of a new species.  Etelis carbunculus occurs at depths of 200-400m across the IndoPacific and goes by various names, including “Ruby snapper” and “Ehu.”  Our genetic analyses revealed that Etelis carbunculus is actually comprised of two species that look nearly identical (a “cryptic species pair”).  These two species both occur across the Indo-Pacific, and often occur in the same geographic region.  This makes management difficult because it’s hard to monitor two species separately when you can’t tell them apart in the field!  Fortunately, after staring at many, many fish, we found two subtle but diagnostic features that can distinguish the two species in the field: one species has a black spot at the tip of the upper caudal fin, and the two species have different shapes of a small spine on the operculum.

To read more about this work, check out our publication:

Andrews KR, AJ Williams, I Fernandez-Silva, SJ Newman, JM Copus, CB Wakefield, JE Randall, BW Bowen. 2016. Phylogeny of deepwater snappers (Genus Etelis) reveals a cryptic species pair in the Indo-Pacific and Pleistocene invasion of the Atlantic. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution

Discovering a cryptic species pair of marine copepods

Haloptilus longicornis. Photo credit: Emily Norton and Michelle Jungbluth

Once again, a project that started out studying population genetic structure turned into a project discovering a new species.  This time the cryptic species pair was comprised of two small marine copepods, both of which occur across the global ocean in tropical and subtropical waters.  The two species were often collected in the same plankton tow, indicating they occur in the same geographic regions, although it’s unknown whether they occur at different depths.  We still haven’t found any diagnostic morphological differences between these two species!

To read more about this work, check out our publication:

Andrews KR, E Norton, I Fernandez-Silva, E Portner, E Goetze. 2014. Multilocus evidence for globally-distributed cryptic species and distinct populations across ocean gyres in a mesopelagic copepod. Molecular Ecology 23(22):5462-79.