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 : firstname.lastname@example.org (NEW!) or email@example.com [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, www.killi-data.org with 3 major new tools :
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.
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?
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 www.killi-data.org !
Thank you for your support over the years.
With my kindest regards.
I am interested in reading other Newsletters, click INFOWEB.