From Jean H. Huber
Private address: 7 Bd Flandrin, 75116 Paris, France
M.N.H.N., Ichthyology, PARIS, France.
Paris, February 3. 2014.
Dear Colleague, dear Aquarist!
As a researcher I have just published a few weeks ago a study with computerized systematics that, according to many immediate feedbacks and questions on systematics, often philosophical, has attracted a lot of interest.
Here is the abstract: The phylogeny of the African genus Aphyosemion (Cyprinodontiformes, Nothobranchiidae) is reappraised based on the single global molecular tree (Collier, 2007). A data matrix of 24 groups comprising all known subgenera and "orphan" species and 91 external characters (body and fins shape, color patterns) is produced that is congruent with the molecular tree. The subgenus Mesoaphyosemion is confirmed as polyphyletic, its definition is restricted and 2 new subgenera are described, Scheelsemion n. subgen. and Iconisemion n. subgen. with the previously assigned species to Mesoaphyosemion being redistributed to the "old" and the new subgenera. The allied genus Episemion is also confirmed as nested within the redefined genus Aphyosemion and is considered as its subgenus only, with its components possibly to be reconsidered once the area, rich of atypical ("orphan") species is fully sampled.
This is the most frequently asked question to Killi-Data (see the newsletters 12 and 13), and not only for the Rivulus and the Simpsonichthys cases. Here with Aphyosemion the question is raised again.
Has Killi-Data become over-conservative or rigid or even personal-minded or trying to impose a vision to everybody else, notably baring in mind that precisely Killi-Data had started in 2000 by pioneeringly stating that changes at the generic or species level will always be automatically followed if evidence based… therefore why not follow the split of Rivulus and Simpsonichthys and Aphyosemion ?
The answer is simple and just a fact of life.
In the past that pioneering -and objective- principle was thought necessary because conflicts between splitters and lumpers were culminating and they were based on opinions only (remember the Roloffia case, no matter of the I.C.Z.N. further decision, that is restricted to nomenclatural issues). Then knowledge and evidence-based publications have increased sharply and a steady and growing tendency to split everything has influenced the publications everywhere and also among killifish (notably with the emergence of the Brasilian researcher Wilson Costa who has described about 230 killifish names to-date in about 25 years).
With these many many names we have a mirror of human life for any system (here a sound principle, to produce and respect evidence based data) that becomes emptied of its sense (perverted, may say some ironists) over time and, for example, Wilson Costa has (no critics, nothing personal against him here, just his strategy as a researcher) changed the picture of the old single genus Cynolebias (sensu Parenti, 1981) into at least 12 genera that were up-levelled from previous subgenera or created as atypical genera (Cynolebias, Austrolebias, Simpsonichthys, Hypsolebias, Nematolebias, Ophthalmolebias, Spectrolebias, Xenurolebias, Plesiolebias, Stenolebias, Maratecoara, Papiliolebias) some of them being further divided in several subgenera (e.g., Austrolebias in 7 subgenera), pending the next step of uplevelling these present subgenera to genera again, and similarly for Cynopoecilus and for Rivulus, while the publications to sustain these splits appeared more as preliminary steps into improving progressively a poor status of knowledge (in other words, proposed diagnostic characters appeared not solid enough or roughly analysed or too quickly translated into generic names).
That is the main reason why Killi-Data has not followed the split of Rivulus and Simpsonichthys with new genera and may even reverse the picture in other also over-splitted groups, after new publications (and in parallel several scientific websites on fishes -not only on killifish- have just done the same).
Nothing justifies that extreme and repetitive splitting strategy in the concerned groups (except a subjective philosophy that is respectable but not due to everybody) while in other groups, other researchers with also modern technology and evidence-based techniques have moved the other way by lumping subgenera into synonyms or by keeping subgenera at the same level (e.g., for Adinia and Fundulus, in 2013 or for Rivulus and its allied, in 2012, op. cit., or by maintaining untouched Aphyosemion as a speciose genus). On the other hand, that position by Killi-Data may bear some weaknesses : it refrains in some way the acknowledgements of new names by the scientific community and it may be seen as unbalanced between new researchers that still must have the right to describe new names at the generic level and old researchers who did it in the past (and had the single advantage to have been born earlier !)
Indeed, the case of the genus Aphyosemion is emblematic because several subgenera had been described in the nineteen seventies and some authors have been tempted to up-level them as genera (e.g., Chromaphyosemion, Diapteron, Raddaella) and they even proposed it but they were poorly followed because nobody could handle the case of the subgenus Mesoaphyosemion that molecular data had clearly shown as heterogeneous (poly- or paraphyletic) and everybody knew that the morphology of all Aphyosemion was extremely stable (and ironically the single lineage that could be told apart, Raddaella fell close to Fundulopanchax by morphology, but not at all by DNA !)… in other words it was not reasonable (and would have been harshly criticised) to split some subgenera into genera and leave Mesoaphyosemion untouched.
As properly stated by Collier (2007) : a possible splitting of the genus in several genera is not advisable if the concept of genus proposed by him is followed ("If genera are to reflect phylogenetic history, two conditions must be met. First, all members of a genus should be descended from a single common ancestor. Second, all descendants of that common ancestor should be members of the same genus") and besides differences beween subgeneric lineages are not big too (as an additional argument) and besides, even more (cf. Pauciradius), they are not big between some subgenera of Aphyosemion and some subgenera of Fundulopanchax !
Collier's molecular results (2007) may be summarized by the following items :
As a direct consequence, it appeared to the author (and previously probably to Collier who did not change the systematics of the genus apart from suggesting the inclusion of Episemion into it after his molecular results) that it was hopeless to produce a purely morphological tree from mainly measurable data (proportions and meristics) like it had been achieved for the Rivulins (Huber, 1999, 2012, Costa, 2006, 2011) or for the lampeyes (Huber, 1999, 2011). It was then decided to try to mimic the results of the molecular tree (Collier, 2007, and also Agnèse, Sonnenberg, Zentz, on more focused subgroups of Aphyosemion) by using morphological data and notably details of the live color pattern and to uniquely declare that option with a formal statement (although it cannot be said for sure that no researcher has not used molecular trees in the past in order to decide on which morphological data to use, none has formally declared it as such, to-date). In addition, after Collier's work (2007), our knowledge was still left with a paraphyletic subgenus, Mesoaphyosemion, and with old diagnoses for all other named subgenera. It was then thought useful and fully in agreement with ICZN which requires formal diagnosis attached to generic levels, to try to mimic the molecular tree to develop new diagnoses for old and possibly new subgenera : that was achieved after the analysis of 91 characters (see the following morphological tree) but reviewers asked not to go further (notably on bootstrap values) because of the "a priori" conception of the tree, unlike previous works on Rivulins and lampeyes, also as computerized systematics. Not only the obtained tree was mimicing the molecular tree but it confirmed the position of the atypical species (point 4, above) and even helped to clarify the position of Collier's "orphan" species [note : several aquarists ask after comparing the present tree with Collier's tree about differences, e.g., about the relative position of Episemion subbranch not bordering that of Diapteron… this is only apparent because the computer decides where to place visually a subbranch relatively to its next subbranch, above or below, but the 2 subbranches can easily be reversed ("rolled") without changing the tree (see also the last paragraph on future studies)].
As a consequence, the new systematic definition of the genus Aphyosemion and its subgenera is fully congruent with present molecular evidence. It comprises 9 subgenera (for more than a hundred species) and it is fully homogeneous and stable.
Here is a table that summerizes the situation after the changes
notes : in the article the status of wuendschi as a subspecies of hanneloreae is questioned but not resolved (possibly closer to hofmanni ?) because the author has never seen that fish ; there is a minor copy-paste error in the publication : labarrei is listed in Iconisemion while it is clearly among Mesoaphosemion in its new restricted sense in the computerized tree, and also in the molecular tree (and the error has been corrected herein).
|FULL NAME||ABBREVIATED NAME||CURRENT STATUS||ALTERNATIVE STATUS|
|Aphyosemion (Diapteron) abacinum||A. (D.) abacinum||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Scheelsemion) ahli||A. (Sch.) [Sch.cal] ahli||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Chromaphyosemion) alpha||A. (Chrom.) alpha||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Mesoaphyosemion) amoenum||A. (Mes.) [Mes.cam] amoenum||valid sp.||# subsp. amoenum amoenum|
|Aphyosemion (Mesoaphyosemion) aureum||A. (Mes.) [Mes.col] aureum||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Scheelsemion) australe||A. (Sch.) [Sch.cal] australe||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Kathetys) bamilekorum||A. (Kath.) bamilekorum||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Raddaella) batesii||A. (Rad.) batesii||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion beauforti||A. (Rad.) beauforti||= batesii||# = cameronense|
|Aphyosemion bellicauda||A. (Mes.) [Mes.cam] bellicauda||= cameronense|
|Aphyosemion (Chromaphyosemion) bitaeniatum||A. (Chrom.) bitaeniatum||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Chromaphyosemion) bivittatum||A. (Chrom.) bivittatum||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion bochtleri||A. (Sch.) [Sch.hez] bochtleri||= herzogi||# subsp. herzogi|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) boehmi||A. (Icon.) [Icon.str] boehmi||valid sp.||# subsp. gabunense|
|Aphyosemion (Kathetys) bualanum||A. (Kath.) bualanum||valid sp.||# subgen. Mesoaphyosemion|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) buytaerti||A. (Icon.) [Icon.wac] buytaerti||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion caeruleum Meinken [non Boulenger]||A. (Sch.) [Sch.cal] caeruleum Meinken [non Boulenger]||nom. preoc. = ahli|
|Aphyosemion (Episemion) callipteron||A. (Epis.) callipteron||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Scheelsemion) calliurum||A. (Sch.) [Sch.cal] calliurum||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Mesoaphyosemion) cameronense||A. (Mes.) [Mes.cam] cameronense||valid sp.||# subsp. cameronense cameronense|
|Aphyosemion (Scheelsemion) campomaanense||A. (Sch.) [Sch.cal] campomaanense||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion carnapi||A. (Kath.) carnapi||= exiguum|
|Aphyosemion (Aphyosemion) castaneum||A. (A.) castaneum||valid sp.||# = christyi|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) caudofasciatum||A. (Icon.) [Icon.ogo] caudofasciatum||valid sp.||# subsp. ogoense|
|Aphyosemion (Scheelsemion) celiae celiae||A. (Sch.) [Sch.cal] celiae||nomin. subsp. celiae celiae|
|Aphyosemion (Aphyosemion) chauchei||A. (A.) chauchei||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Aphyosemion) christyi||A. (A.) christyi||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Mesoaphyosemion) citrineipinnis||A. (Mes.) [Mes.col] citrineipinnis||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Mesoaphyosemion) coeleste||A. (Mes.) [Mes.col] coeleste||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion coeruleum Meinken [non Boulenger]||A. (Chrom.) coeruleum Meinken [non Boulenger]||nom. preoc. = hollyi|
|Aphyosemion (Aphyosemion) cognatum||A. (A.) cognatum||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Aphyosemion) congicum||A. (A.) congicum||valid sp.||# nom. dubium|
|Aphyosemion (Diapteron) cyanostictum||A. (D.) cyanostictum||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Kathetys) dargei||A. (Kath.) dargei||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Aphyosemion) decorsei||A. (A.) decorsei||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Chromaphyosemion) ecucuense||A. (Chrom.) ecucuense||valid sp.||# = malumbresi|
|Aphyosemion (Scheelsemion) edeanum||A. (Sch.) [Sch.cal] edeanum||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion elberti||A. (Kath.) elberti||= bualanum||# valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Aphyosemion) elegans||A. (A.) elegans||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Chromaphyosemion) erythron||A. (Chrom.) erythron||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) escherichi||A. (Icon.) [Icon.str] escherichi||valid sp.||# = striatum|
|Aphyosemion (Mesoaphyosemion) etsamense||A. (Mes.) [Mes.cam] etsamense||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) exigoideum||A. (Icon.) [Icon.str] exigoideum||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Kathetys) exiguum||A. (Kath.) exiguum||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Aphyosemion) ferranti||A. (A.) ferranti||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Scheelsemion) pascheni festivum||A. (Sch.) [Sch.pas] festivum||subsp. pascheni||# valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion flavum||A. (Sch.) [Sch.cal] flavum||= calliurum|
|Aphyosemion (Scheelsemion) franzwerneri||A. (Sch.) [Sch.fra] franzwerneri||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Diapteron) fulgens||A. (D.) fulgens||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) gabunense||A. (Icon.) [Icon.str] gabunense||valid sp.||# subsp. gabunense|
|Aphyosemion (Diapteron) georgiae||A. (D.) georgiae||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) grelli||A. (Icon.) [Icon.hof] grelli||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion gustavi||A. (Rad.) gustavi||= batesii|
|Aphyosemion (Mesoaphyosemion) haasi||A. (Mes.) [Mes.cam] haasi||valid sp.||# subsp. cameronense|
|Aphyosemion (Mesoaphyosemion) halleri||A. (Mes.) [Mes.cam] halleri||valid sp.||# subsp. cameronense|
|Aphyosemion (Mesoaphyosemion) hanneloreae hanneloreae||A. (Mes.) [Mes.han] hanneloreae||nomin. subsp. hanneloreae hanneloreae|
|Aphyosemion (Scheelsemion) heinemanni||A. (Sch.) [Sch.cal] heinemanni||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) hera||A. (Icon.) [Icon.her] hera||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Scheelsemion) herzogi||A. (Sch.) [Sch.hez] herzogi||valid sp.||# subsp. herzogi herzogi|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) hofmanni||A. (Icon.) [Icon.hof] hofmanni||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion hollyi||A. (Chrom.) hollyi||= bivittatum|
|Aphyosemion jacobi||A. (Kath.) jacobi||= exiguum|
|Aphyosemion jaundense||A. (Kath.) jaundense||= exiguum|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) joergenscheeli||A. (Icon.) [Icon.str] joergenscheeli||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Kathetys) kekemense||A. (Kath.) kekemense||valid sp.||# subsp. bualanum # = elberti|
|Aphyosemion (Chromaphyosemion) kouamense||A. (Chrom.) kouamense||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Chromaphyosemion) koungueense||A. (Chrom.) koungueense||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Episemion) krystallinoron||A. (Epis.) krystallinoron||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion kunzi||A. (Rad.) kunzi||= splendidum||# = batesii # valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Mesoaphyosemion) labarrei||A. (Mes.) [Mes.wil] labarrei||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Aphyosemion) lamberti||A. (A.) lamberti||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Aphyosemion) lefiniense||A. (A.) lefiniense||valid sp.||# subsp. schioetzi|
|Aphyosemion (Scheelsemion) lividum||A. (Sch.) [Sch.cal] lividum||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion loboanum||A. (Kath.) loboanum||= exiguum|
|Aphyosemion (Chromaphyosemion) loennbergii||A. (Chrom.) loennbergii||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion loloense||A. (Kath.) loloense||= exiguum|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) louessense||A. (Icon.) [Icon.ogo] louessense||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Chromaphyosemion) lugens||A. (Chrom.) lugens||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Aphyosemion) lujae||A. (A.) lujae||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Mesoaphyosemion) maculatum||A. (Mes.) [Mes.cam] maculatum||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Chromaphyosemion) malumbresi||A. (Chrom.) malumbresi||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion margaretae||A. (A.) margaretae||= christyi||# valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) marginatum||A. (Icon.) [Icon.str] marginatum||valid sp.||# subsp. gabunense|
|Aphyosemion (Chromaphyosemion) melanogaster||A. (Chrom.) melanogaster||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion melanopteron||A. (A.) melanopteron||= congicum||# valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Chromaphyosemion) melinoeides||A. (Chrom.) melinoeides||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion microphtalmum||A. (Icon.) [Icon.str] microphtalmum||= escherichi||# valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion microstomum||A. (Mes.) [Mes.cam] microstomum||= cameronense|
|Aphyosemion mikeae||A. (Icon.) [Icon.wac] mikeae||= wachtersi||# subsp. wachtersi|
|Aphyosemion (Mesoaphyosemion) mimbon||A. (Mes.) [Mes.cam] mimbon||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion multicolor||A. (Chrom.) multicolor||= bitaeniatum||# valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Aphyosemion) musafirii||A. (A.) musafirii||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion nigri||A. (Chrom.) nigri||= bitaeniatum|
|Aphyosemion normani||A. (Kath.) normani||= exiguum|
|Aphyosemion (Mesoaphyosemion) obscurum||A. (Mes.) [Mes.cam] obscurum||valid sp.||# subsp. cameronense|
|Aphyosemion (Mesoaphyosemion) ocellatum||A. (Mes.) [Mes.col] ocellatum||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) ogoense||A. (Icon.) [Icon.ogo] ogoense||valid sp.||# subsp. ogoense ogoense|
|Aphyosemion (Chromaphyosemion) omega||A. (Chrom.) omega||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) ottogartneri||A. (Icon.) [Icon.ogo] ottogartneri||valid sp.||# subsp. ogoense|
|Aphyosemion (Chromaphyosemion) pamaense||A. (Chrom.) pamaense||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion pappenheimi||A. (Chrom.) pappenheimi||= loennbergii||# valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Scheelsemion) pascheni pascheni||A. (Sch.) [Sch.pas] pascheni||nomin. subsp. pascheni pascheni||# valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Mesoaphyosemion) passaroi||A. (Mes.) [Mes.col] passaroi||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Aphyosemion) plagitaenium||A. (A.) plagitaenium||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Chromaphyosemion) poliaki||A. (Chrom.) poliaki||valid sp.||# = volcanum|
|Aphyosemion (Aphyosemion) polli||A. (A.) polli||valid sp.||# = christyi|
|Aphyosemion polychromum||A. (Sch.) [Sch.cal] polychromum||= australe|
|Aphyosemion preussi||A. (Kath.) preussi||= exiguum|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) primigenium||A. (Icon.) [Icon.str] primigenium||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Aphyosemion) pseudoelegans||A. (A.) pseudoelegans||valid sp.||# misidentification|
|Aphyosemion (Mesoaphyosemion) punctatum||A. (Mes.) [Mes.wil] punctatum||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Chromaphyosemion) punctulatum||A. (Chrom.) punctulatum||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) pyrophore||A. (Icon.) [Icon.ogo] pyrophore||valid sp.||# subsp. ogoense|
|Aphyosemion (Mesoaphyosemion) raddai||A. (Mes.) [Mes.cam] raddai||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Aphyosemion) rectogoense||A. (A.) rectogoense||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Chromaphyosemion) riggenbachi||A. (Chrom.) riggenbachi||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion rubrifascium||A. (Kath.) rubrifascium||= bualanum||# = elberti|
|Aphyosemion rubrostictum||A. (Chrom.) rubrostictum||= bitaeniatum||# = bivittatum|
|Aphyosemion (Aphyosemion) schioetzi||A. (A.) schioetzi||valid sp.||# subsp. schioetzi schioetzi|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) schluppi||A. (Icon.) [Icon.thy] schluppi||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Aphyosemion) schoutedeni||A. (A.) schoutedeni||valid sp.||# = decorsei|
|Aphyosemion schreineri||A. (Rad.) schreineri||= batesii|
|Aphyosemion (Diapteron) seegersi||A. (D.) seegersi||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion simulans||A. (Icon.) [Icon.str] simulans||= escherichi||# = microphtalmum|
|Aphyosemion (Raddaella) splendidum||A. (Rad.) splendidum||valid sp.||# = batesii|
|Aphyosemion (Chromaphyosemion) splendopleure||A. (Chrom.) splendopleure||valid sp.||# = bitaeniatum|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) striatum||A. (Icon.) [Icon.str] striatum||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion tessmanni||A. (Kath.) tessmanni||= bualanum||# = elberti|
|Aphyosemion (Aphyosemion) teugelsi||A. (A.) teugelsi||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) thysi||A. (Icon.) [Icon.thy] thysi||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Scheelsemion) tirbaki||A. (Sch.) [Sch.her] tirbaki||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion unicolor||A. (Sch.) [Sch.cal] unicolor||= calliurum|
|Aphyosemion unistrigatum||A. (Chrom.) unistrigatum||= loennbergii|
|Aphyosemion vexillifer||A. (Sch.) [Sch.cal] vexillifer||= calliurum|
|Aphyosemion (Chromaphyosemion) volcanum||A. (Chrom.) volcanum||valid sp.||# = splendopleure|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) wachtersi||A. (Icon.) [Icon.wac] wachtersi||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Mesoaphyosemion) wildekampi||A. (Mes.) [Mes.wil] wildekampi||valid sp.|
|Aphyosemion (Scheelsemion) celiae winifredae||A. (Sch.) [Sch.cal] winifredae||subsp. celiae||# = celiae|
|Aphyosemion (Mesoaphyosemion) hanneloreae wuendschi||A. (Mes.) [Mes.han] wuendschi||subsp. hanneloreae||# = hanneloreae|
|Aphyosemion (Iconisemion) zygaima||A. (Icon.) [Icon.ogo] zygaima||valid sp.|
Although the dedication of one of the new subgenera, Scheelsemion, is independent to the introductive statement on lumping and splitting, it is tempting to add some after thoughts about it :
Is this situation good or bad ? How would have reacted the pionneer Joergen Scheel with this situation ? Are these new names really useful ? Are those modern researchers with modern techniques just applying Scheel's observations without any risk ? Will there be more and more described cryptic species without an end ? Will ultimately this mean that a population in Scheel's sense (that he wisely recommended to aquarists to keep separate from other related populations for breeding) end up with a species name (e.g., recently 5 populations of Scriptaphyosemion geryi were shown molecularly incompatible, not to speak about the multiple mixed populations of the Aphyosemion elegans superspecies in the Congo basin… or similarly of the Rivulus urophthalmus superspecies in the Amazon basin) ? Will this situation end up with an unavoidable destruction of the nomenclature ? (etc., etc.) Obviously I have no answer to those questions, but still let's believe that there is space, like Scheel always believed (and also any "true" researcher), for new research, new understanding to a biological complexity that becomes more and more complex and farther away while we attempt to touch it… with naming or with no naming, that is the question !
Collier (2007) has rightly pointed the uneasy positioning of his "orphan" species, namely hera, hofmanni, in relation to callipteron (Episemion). The facts that all these 3 species are distributed in northern Gabon plateau, not far from each other geographically and that the whole area east of their known distribution in northern Du-Chaillu Massif of hills and small mountains is virgin of detailes collections probably explain those uncertainties. The future prospects for the improvement of our knowledge of the systematics of the genus Aphyosemion most probably lie in that region, all the more that it is precisely where speciation may have once started (at least for the basic lineages Chromaphyosemion and Scheelsemion) and that at its borders there are other atypical fishes without geographical phylogenetic known related counterparts (Plataplochilus terveri, Aphyosemion tirbaki, Aapticheilichthys websteri). Let's hope that entrepreneur collectors, notably passionate hobbyists, will start soon a detailed sampling of the region. Of course if it is not already the case, this is because roads for 4-wheels motors are not available, but there are roads for 2-wheels motors, and bikes with or without motors are fashionable again these days.
The second scope of prospect after this pionneering new study aiming to mimic an available molecular tree while morphological (proportions, meristics) data are untouchable (or parasites) lies probably in applying the same approach to other groups of Killifish : for example, to the genus Fundulus that was well reconfigured recently (we have a diagnosis for the newly named subgenus Wileyichthys, but new rediagnoses are needed for the old subgenera that had been reshuffled like for Aphyosemion), to the genus Aphanius (for which we have molecular data that are inconsistent with morphology), to the genus Epiplatys (in prep. by the present author), to the genus Nothobranchius and its many subgenera (here a complete molecular tree is missing, but rumored as coming soon, and most subgenera have no modern diagnosis), etc. (without forgetting to mention a repeated study of Aphyosemion with new characters notably once a new molecular tree will be obtained with new samples (also in the southern belts in Congo-Zaïre-Angola), and with longer sequences and possibly the whole genome… the cost is decreasing sharply overtime and will become routine, since, for a human being, the whole genome costed 3 years ago US$ 3000 and now it is less than US$ 200 !)
Because this computerized process is accessible to anybody (and notably to aquarists who see their fish alive for long, especially those grouped in specialized associations or study-groups of some genera or even subgenera) but complicated, I shall describe it step by step hereafter (it is free, only a computer is needed and good eyes and time to detail the live fish or color photos… and my eyes are getting old… plus the Philip programme (there are hundreds of such phylogenetic programmes but most are much heavier, more complicated and they use command instructions that are uneasy for no specialists) ; to know more about the programme, go to Philip, written by Joe Felsentein, a nice guy who answers to technical questions by e-mails, a rare asset. Now to process practically :
As a final comment let's hope (idealistically) that one day in the future people, aquarists and researchers, work together in order to define smartly those characters and their states and derive diagnoses for all genera of Killifish !
In total a very important and sensitive newsletter !
Hopefully a boost to our community and a spur to speed up knowledge progress on our (beloved) fishes !
Take care and enjoy the scientific or aquaristic complexity of killifish !
Do not hesitate to ask questions for future Newsletters.
Visit frequently the website www.killi-data.org !
Thank you for your support over the years.
With my kindest regards.
Literature cited: [the books Killi-Data Series can be ordered here and, now, are even freely sent to K-D-I members as PDF documents]
Huber, J.H. 2012. Reappraisal of the Phylogeny of Rivulus and its Allied focused on External Characters. Killi-Data Series 2012, 9-25, 3 figs., 2 tabs.
Huber, J.H. 2013. Reappraisal of the Phylogeny of the African genus Aphyosemion (Cyprinodontiformes) focused on External Characters, in line with Molecular Data, with new and redefined Subgenera. Killi-Data Series 2013, 4-20, 2 figs.
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