miscellaneous news

From Jean H. Huber
Private address: 7 Bd Flandrin, 75116 Paris, France
Laboratoire d'Ichtyologie, M.N.H.N., 43 rue Cuvier, 75231 PARIS Cedex 05.
e-mail : (today inactive)
S.F.I. : Societe Francaise d'Ichtyologie (same address).

Paris, November 26., 2000.

Dear Colleague, dear Aquarist!

Eleven months have now passed since I have sent my first newsletter to announce the coming publication of Killi-Data 2000 (updated: November 30. 1999). Those of you who were then on the mailing list got it perfectly (for those not, the Newsletter 1 may be forwarded again as a Word attached document or plain text, upon request).

Killi-Data 2000 was actually published on January 15. 2000.

The single language version, i.e. English, French, German or Spanish, represents about 350 pages. It is selling very well through the channel of various Killifish Associations who have agreed by contract to transfer royalties from sales to ichthyological institutions of their country to support killifish research by young scientists. These are AKA for the USA, AKFB for French-speaking Belgium, BKA for the UK, KCF for France, SKS for Scandinavia, SEK for Spain, AIK for Italy, and possibly APK for Portugal.

The four-languages version (538 pages), or, the single language version for purchasers not belonging to these Associations, will only be sold by us at the price of 250FF per unit postage included, as a non profit venture (by credit card with number and expiry date to SFI, address above).


The first objective of this second Newsletter is to provide you with the new names that were published during these 12 months: only three that are listed in appendix.

As anticipated in Newsletter 1, Wilson Costa is now the number one describer of oviparous Cyprinodontiformes with 77 new taxa in total during 12 years, overtaking the German Ernst Ahl (75).

The many name changes of Killi-Data 2000 have been well accepted by aquarists and the implementation is progressively seen in killifish magazines. Two major questions have risen from readers, though.

- What is the interest of new generic names which could be easily used as subgenera?

This question cannot be fixed since the placement of a taxon in a named genus, named subgenus, or unnamed superspecies, depends only on the philosophy of the author of the publication. Therefore there is no good solution, except the one that is currently accepted by consensus.

Thirty years ago, the lumping strategy (few genera, each with many species) was dominant. Today, the splitting strategy (many genera, each with few species) is dominant in all sectors of biological taxonomy (not only Cyprinodonts or fishes). But, say in thirty years, nobody knows: it may be the reverse and we have just to adapt (simply as we do in our every day's modern life and just as the killifishes do in their natural habitat). 

The important matter is that a lot of new results have been brought to support the name changes, during the last thirty years (if these name changes were only based on philosophical opinions, nobody would follow them). 

Be prepared to change your Rivulus names, it is coming soon (not from me! but, good news, this was the last big genus that remained unsplit). 

The next issue is about Chromaphyosemion which has been uplifted to the full genus status by the German Doctorate student Sonnenberg, last spring: a personal proposal with no additional diagnosis (in absolute terms and versus other named subgenera).

However further molecular results are expected from him (within his thesis?) and it is not known how they will fit or not with previous results by Murphy and Collier (1999). Until their availability, we will keep Chromaphyosemion as a subgenus, while looking forward Sonnenberg's contribution with interest.

- Why are there so many differences in the scientific results obtained from each of the three methods, namely molecular (DNA), osteological (bones), morphological (including the ecology) and how to reconcile them?

This question is difficult to handle because no global answer is available, although you can trust that all researchers, using different methods, aim at reconciling results (as a matter of fact, opposite results mean a higher risk to be challenged and defeated).

The first reason is that reality in biology is always more complex than anticipated and what is thought right at a moment, may well be wrong on the next (but, those who believe that this complexity is uniquely high in Cyprinodonts should hear the views of the specialists of other groups of fishes, e.g., Cichlids or Characids).

The second reason is that all three methods are very young (it is obvious for the new DNA techniques, only started less than 10 years; it is also true for morphology and osteology with the novel tool of computer softwares ; all researchers have to develop new models or criteria to define characters and their segmentation and their priority in the evolution).

A good dual example of that complexity. DNA experiments have shown clearly (i.e., with high bootstrap values) that the group of taxa, Callopanchax, Archiaphyosemion and Scriptaphyosemion, previously gathered in the invalid name Roloffia, are completely separated from Aphyosemion and Fundulopanchax in their evolution. Aquarists (with their unique ability to observe fish alive for long in their aquariums) had disclosed this fact first, but morphologists could not agree on this, having shown several analogous characters between the two groups.

Reversely, the same DNA experiments have shown clearly (i.e., with high bootstrap values) that the 3 species, namely oeseri, marmoratus and scheeli, are closer to Fundulopanchax than to Aphyosemion in their evolution. Neither aquarists nor morphologists would agree with this fact today.

Where is the truth then?

Nobody knows, the biological complexity is very high (the devil is convergence and reversal of characters).

Besides a technique cannot possibly answer to all questions : it has artefacts and it will be replaced once by a better technique.

Anyhow, one matter is sure : we need to bring innovative ideas and find diagnostic characters to support or defeat those findings. One way or the other, research continues and cooperation is even more of utmost importance, and, links between scientists and aquarist clearly on the agenda.

Two major news for your thoughts, as a continuation to these two questions (outside the Cyprinodonts).

- a new collection of Caelacanths (as you know, the fish with short legs on the path of human evolution) have recently been disclosed from North of the Sulawesi island, Indonesia. First records of Caelacanths were from deep seas near Madagascar and Comores, and although the two islands are separated by thousands of kilometres (and dozens of million of years of drift), the fish collected from both localities are very similar externally… but genetical and micro-morphological studies have shown clearly that the two fishes are distinct and the latest collection has been named as a new (Latimeria) species.

- Atheriniformes fishes (Bedotia, Melanotaenia, Telmatherina… ) have been just DNA sampled (Grose, 2000) and the results confirm that they represent a sister group of Beloniformes (Oryzias… ) and Cyprinodontiformes (Killifishes and Livebearers), as disclosed by recent morphological and osteological studies ; then, Atherinomorpha forms a homogeneous group with a coherent biogeography and the knowledge in its phylogeny improves.

Two final very good news for Cyprinodonts :

- The major osteological work on Poeciliins and Aplocheilichthyins that everybody looked forward since long has just been published by Ghedotti (Zool. J. Linnean Society, September issue).

The important results had been kindly forwarded to us prior to the publication of Killi-Data 2000 by him and they are included in it (as "Ghedotti, in print 1999").

The systematics of Aplocheilichthyins in Killi-Data take into account his work, my work (partly) on the same subject on external morphology (1999) and the classification in the Catalog of Fishes.

Some results are conflicting (and compromises had to be decided by a splitting approach) but many are converging.

Aplocheilichthys is confirmed a monotypic genus with all species previously in it being separated and placed in other generic unit(s), but Ghedotti's findings go beyond by placing Aplocheilichthys primitive to all Aplocheilichthyins (including Fluviphylax) and to all Poeciliins.

- An annual species that was thought to be extinct since its description in 1934 by Ladiges, Leptolebias marmoratus, has just been recollected and a few specimens are alive and bred in Brasil (Nielsen, pers. comm., and publication in a Brasilian magazine in 2000).

The question of species protection is a dramatically important issue for Cyprinodonts, because they live in reclusive waters that are depending on some shelter. 

With annuals, it is always possible that a chance exists that a species is not extinct, like for Leptolebias marmoratus.

With non annuals, the probability is much lower and, for example, several Cyprinodontin species are definitely exited from our world.

In this context, aquarists have a primary role to maintain species and avoid the risk of extinction for threatened species.

A very good example, and the single one in the genus Fundulopanchax (or Aphyosemion s.l.), is that of oeseri (or santaisabellae, if you prefer), a non annual tropical species with habitats that are currently destroyed by human development in Malabo. Which organized group of aquarists is going to tackle the challenge ? Urgently ?

Last minute news : financial accounts of my on-sale publications have just been completed and results are excellent, since all are now "profitable" (profits are simply computed from sales less cost of printing, photocopying, envelopes and postage!):

- The booklet "Comparison of old world and new world tropical Cyprinodonts" (1998) have been distributed in over 100 copies (60 French francs each on sale) and slight profits have just emerged (145 French francs in total);

- The book "Killi-Data" (1994, 1996, 2000) has become profitable at last, with a positive result of 124 French francs in total (out of total revenues of 33 500 French francs over 7 years !);

- The book "Review of Rivulus" (1992) has been profitable since long and total profits of over 26 000 French francs (or 4400 US dollars, with the average exchange rate of the period) are given to Paris Museum (80%) and to UNICEF/PAHO (20%).

Three important consequences:

- To acknowledge the remarkable purchasing efforts of the Killi-hobbyists (who, no doubt, represent the majority of the sales), I have decided (upon Maurice Chauche's suggestion) to prepare for them a new list which will compare, one by one, the fish names used in their three available "must", namely Ruud Wildekamp's "a World of Killies", Lothar Seegers's pictorial "Killi Aqualog", and Killi-Data.

- A web version of Killi-Data will be implemented, since I always promised that venture when Killi-Data reaches profitability. But it will be completely different from the book, in order not to jeopardize sales of the killifish associations and not to motivate pirates, and it will be made freely accessible to the purchasers of the 2000 edition of the book.

- By contract with the Paris Museum, the donated money (i.e., 21000 French francs, today 3200€) will be granted to researchers from any country (preferably young and new to those fishes in order to insure generation replacement) who will study oviparous Cyprinodonts or Killifishes at the MNHN premises in Paris, with two options only (unfortunately young students cannot be considered because the museum staff cannot allocate time to manage or help them); either, junior researchers (doctorate researchers with a definite broader project) or experienced researchers (already established in institutions for a short mission in Paris). The study must lead to a publication, obviously.

Many projects are expected since the Paris Museum has a huge collection of Cyprinodonts, modern technology devices, highly reckoned morphologists, geneticians… and Paris is an appealing city.

Therefore, please circulate widely this information and submit projects directly to Prof. François MEUNIER, at Paris MNHN <> or to me.

Remember that anybody can contribute to Killi-Data: we are eagerly seeking collecting locality data (with geographical coordinates, to be sorted by the computer) from the whole world (not only tropical countries as per Killi-Data 1996).

If you have collecting data from the Mediterranean countries or Northern America, please forward them (always with geographical coordinates), notably those which feature several sympatric species.

In addition, to the request of several aquarists, we are gathering new information for a subsequent edition for which aquarists contributors are also welcome : for each species, we aim to record the standard (not the maximum !) lifespan in aquarium (months), the standard date of first sexation, i.e., when the sexes are distinguishable but the fish are not yet breeding (weeks), and the history of the species (name of the importer and date of first availability in aquariums, plus name of the first breeder and year of achievement).

Do not hesitate to ask questions for future Newsletters.

Thank you for your support over the years.

With my kindest regards.


Appendix : new names since the last update (November 1999) and the publication of Killi-Data 2000. Here, see NEW.

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