INFOWEB 8 : systematic challenges for problematic taxa and for renewed diagnoses, to date

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 : (NEW!) or [both today inactive]
S.F.I. : Societe Francaise d'Ichtyologie (same address).

Paris, March 9., 2004.


Dear Colleague, dear Aquarist !


This newsletter has a flavour of success. Present success and hopefully future success !


Present success concerns Killi-Data online, with 3 major new tools :

  1. For non-English speaking "guests", the Google automatic translation into 5 languages (French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese) is now active and continuous from start page into the entire Guest section. My warmest thanks to Juan Carlos Rubio, a noted aquarist and I.T. expert, who produced the web code, so that it works smoothly (from your e-mail courteous visit card) and to Fred Vagner for the implementation in France. The Google automatic translation is not perfect (notably scientific names are unexpectedly reversed), but actually it will change lives of many aquarists around the world and we all 3 spent dozens of hours of adjustments, only for them (note : the Data Base cannot be translated, but after a good personal translation of the headlines and legends in the SAMPLE page, then the understanding is easy because the used vocabulary is very limited and simple).
  2. For all "guests" visitors, the introduction by the author of a very powerful search engine over the entire section : if you click on SEARCH ENGINE (or its translation) in the tool bar and you type a word, then the engine will give you pertinent results with the sentence where it is found (for example, if you type "abacinum", you'll get 9 matches with a direct link to the concerned pages)… Very useful for this huge section of the website !
  3. For potentially future members or for renewals, it is now possible to pay the fee with PAYPAL services : after having filled the REGISTRATION form, go to their website , log in to your PayPal account (or  subscribe to a free account, if you haven't an account already), and go to the "Send Money" tab, write coordinates of the author (Jean Huber, 7 Bd Flandrin, 75116 Paris, France) and select 17 Euros to be sent ; you can send money using a credit card, your bank account or funds already in your PayPal Account… easy !


Future success, if we are able to develop more and more the potentials of the cooperative platform that was created by Killi-Data online.

This encompasses "biggest challenges" in terms of systematics that remain unresolved for older names and "missing comparative diagnosis" for many probably valid names (or unjustified synonyms, according to recent DNA findings). For these 2 ventures, a strong link between scientists (amateurs or professional) and aquarists (collectors or expert breeders/observers) is a must.

What are, according to the author,  the 33 biggest systematic challenges regarding knowledge of Killifishes ? (all are detailed HERE), because this newsletter has been finalized and published as a research contribution by the author.


  1. Rivulus micropus
  2. "Cyprinodon" martae
  3. Fundulopanchax spoorenbergi 
  4. Pachypanchax nuchimaculatus
  5. Rivulus xanthonotus and a final status for Aphyosemion trilineatum
  6. schreitmuelleri : Megalebias vs. Austrolebias
  7. Cynolebias porosus
  8. Laciris pelagica and Aphanius apodus
  9. Pantanodon madagascariensis and Millerichthys robustus
  10. Rivulus obscurus and ornatus
  11. Aphyosemion bualanum
  12. Aphyosemion escherichi vs. A. microphtalmum issue (linked to Plataplochilus ngaensis)
  13. Fundulopanchax deltaensis, gularis, fallax, kribianus, schwoiseri
  14. Fundulopanchax walkeri and/or spurrelli
  15. Fundulopanchax powelli
  16. viviparous Epiplatys bifasciatus/spilargyreius
  17. Epiplatys lokoensis
  18. Nothobranchius mkuziensis, orthonotus and rubroreticulatus
  19. Poropanchax normani and the Angolan lampeyes
  20. Rivulus holmiae and lanceolatus
  21. Aphyosemion elegans and decorsei
  22. Aphyosemion splendidum, batesii, kunzi 
  23. Hylopanchax silvestris and stictopleuron
  24. Epiplatys nigricans and chevalieri
  25. Aphyosemion ferranti, lujae, Epiplatys multifasciatus
  26. Pterolebias bokermanni, luelingi and the rediscovery of longipinnis
  27. melantereon : Scriptaphyosemion vs. Epiplatys
  28. Lacustricola atripinna and bukobanus
  29. Fundulus kansae and zebrinus
  30. Aphyosemion exiguum and Epiplatys nyongensis
  31. Some disturbing Aplocheilus issues for blockii, panchax, siamensis, andamanicus
  32. The unsatisfactory situation of Orestias, intralacustrine speciation or not
  33. The numerous names with missing types or undisclosed type material

The 33 systematic challenges are all thorny questions that remain in front of us, and now that the cooperative community of Killi-Data is a fact, not an idealistic dream, it is achievable… provided of course that political conditions in the concerned country are stable and health issues are secured, in case of needed new fish collections.


The next challenge is certainly to build up a more solid diagnosis or even to propose a first diagnosis for many valid Killifish species.

What is a diagnosis?
It is a definition, a statement that allows separation (from "dia", a Greek word) of knowledge (from "gnosis", a Greek word) ; with a diagnosis, a name at the species or at the genus level is defined as single, unique, in comparison to other, possibly related, names.

Is it absolutely necessary ? 
Yes, for 3 main reasons: first, a diagnosis is compulsory according to ICZN, the International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature (since 1930) ; second, a diagnosis is very useful and even unavoidable to build up knowledge on a given group (progress requires a progressive strategy), third, a diagnosis is today the major resource in building the systematic matrix of data that enables to develop phylogenetic trees with computer programmes (such as PAUP).

Why are there diagnoses currently missing ? 
The present unsatisfactory situation may originate from very old taxa (before 1930), from recently described taxa (by neglecting authors), from new data that change the composition of a group (new species of a known group, undisclosed data on live color pattern or ecology, etc ; besides, DNA results have reshuffled several of our "certainties"), from the first live collections of old taxa, etc.

Are diagnoses difficult to write ?
Yes and no. Obviously for a unique species, it is easy (Adamas formosus is the single Killifish "with a heart-shaped white blotch on front") for immediate characters (but other characters of that species, such as the faint dark vertical bar on eye or its larger eye or its unique behavior, may not be easily disclosed) ; for a cryptic species, it may be very difficult, or said differently, it may need a detailed step-by-step analysis ; a typical diagnosis must list a number of characters (live pattern, preserved pattern, juvenile pattern, mood-driven pattern, bones, rays, micro-morphological features, etc.) that are shared with other names or alternatively that are not shared with comparative names ; and a character can be anything, such as the upper margin of the male Caudal fin, or the presence of a black spot in juveniles, or the shape of the Anal fin in adult female, etc. Today everybody has become familiar with this process, thanks to computer technology. Then, for a name, think of a simple character and answer yes (= "0") or no (="1") for it and the related names : this is the beginning of your diagnosis… not easy to start, but after the initial effort, it is just a brain exercise !


What are the critically missing comparative diagnoses for oviparous Cyprinodonts?


  1. the Epiplatys fasciolatus-olbrechtsi superspecies, with more than 10 names and many that are difficult to set apart
  2. the separation of Rivulus marmoratus and ocellatus, synonyms, subspecies or distinct species and their comparison with caudomarginatus and brasiliensis [all of them to-day in Kryptolebias]
  3. thei re-definition of all components of Fundulopanchax gardneri-mirabilis (more than 10 names)
  4. the separation of all components of the Rivulus urophthalmus superspecies (more than 10 names)
  5. the re-definition of the components of the Cyprinodon variegatus superspecies
  6. the re-assignment of the Uruguayan populations of Austrolebias adloffi to Costa's new names
  7. the comparative re-definition of the components of the Nothobranchius guentheri or korthausae superspecies
  8. the comparative re-definition of the components of the Micropanchax loati/kingii superspecies


But this list is only an appetizer : actually most groups of Killifish would require a new diagnosis !

Who can help in securing and actually producing new diagnosis ?
Although the author's opinion may not be shared by all scientific schools, it appears that expert aquarists, notably those members of specialised study groups, have a lead on the issue. For several reasons : they own the live fish, they can observe their fish for long periods and at the various stages of their lives, they can compare related species by putting them close to each other (or, for males only, mixed together in a single aquarium), they can exchange their findings with other experts, they can help scientists in producing their matrix of data to improve knowledge. These expert aquarists are used to write articles on breeding and maintenance, with a fine and detailed description of their fish : for them, to add a diagnosis to their article will require a more rational approach (is that character of species "x" also found in species "y", "z", is that difference between "x", "y", "z", stable or not, etc. ?)… after a first experience, it will be considered as very attractive and more useful than just a detailed description ! Notably, if it is undertaken within a local group meeting. 

Good luck, then and do not hesitate to contact the author regarding these 33 challenges and these infinite necessary diagnoses (preliminary diagnoses are given for each valid species in the Data Base).
There is no minor cooperation. Cooperation, according to each one's capacities, is open to all who want to know more, to understand more.


In total a very important 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 !

Thank you for your support over the years.

With my kindest regards.


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