Two new species of sea mothfish were found in the south china sea and the coastal waters of the East China Sea

Pegasus sinensis sp. nov.)。 Courtesy of Wang Xin

South Sea mothfish (Spinipegasus nanhaiensis sp. nov.)。 Courtesy of Wang Xin

Recently, Lin Qiang’s team, a researcher at the South China Sea Institute of Oceanography of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has made new progress in the field of fish resources and classification of sea dragons. Based on the investigation and systematic classification of fish resources in the coastal sea, they found two new species of sea mothfish in the coastal waters of the South China Sea and the East China Sea, named Spinipegasus nanhaiensis sp. nov.) and the Chinese sea mothfish (Pegasus sinensis sp. nov.)。 The relevant results have been published in “Animal Taxonomy” and “Zoological Research”.

The mothfish is a small benthic marine teleost fish belonging to the order Hydra, mothfish family, widely distributed in temperate and tropical coastal waters of the Indo-Pacific ocean from South Africa to Hawaii. For a long time, sea mothfish as a medicinal source organism has been widely favored in the Chinese herbal medicine market, and at the same time, it has also been widely circulated in the aquarium ornamental market. Statistics show that in the Philippine island of Bohol alone, more than 700,000 mothfish are traded every year.

Some scholars believe that the low population density of sea mothfish and the existence of “monogamous” mono-formulated reproduction characteristics, coupled with its weak diffusion ability, make sea mothfish may be very sensitive to high-intensity fishing activities, and its wild population is also facing great threats. However, the research on the classification and population resources of mothfish is very scarce, in order to avoid the dilemma that its species resources may face extinction before they are fully recognized, this study has carried out systematic investigation and research on the sea moth species in China’s coastal waters.

According to reports, China has previously recorded a total of 3 species of mothfish, mainly distributed in Fujian and its south coastal waters, through the comprehensive analysis of the morphological and genetic information of the samples, Lin Qiang’s team confirmed 2 new moth species in Xiamen, Yangjiang and Beihai. Among them, the Chinese sea mothfish (Pegasus sinensis sp. nov.) the type is produced off the coast of Xiamen, Fujian Province, which was originally thought to be Pegasus volitans; South Sea mothfish (Spinipegasus nanhaiensis sp. nov.) is native to the Yangjiang River, Guangdong Province, where it has long been known as spinipegasus laternarius. The two new positive and secondary model specimens of new sea moth fish species are currently stored in the South China Sea Marine Biological Herbarium of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the global sea moth fish has since increased from 6 to 8 species, of which 5 species are distributed offshore in China.

In the current taxonomic system, the mothfish family contains only two genera, Pegasus and Eurypegasus, and Spinipegasus is divided as a subgenera in the genus Pegasus, and some scholars have proposed to divide Spinipegasus into a separate new genus, but have not been supported by sufficient evidence.

Through mitochondrial genome sequencing of mothfish species, Lin Qiang’s team found that pegasus and eurypegasus formed sister groups based on phylogenetic analysis, and the two were more closely related, while Spinipegasus was clustered outside the genus of mothfish and broad sea mothfish, which fully supported the view proposed in previous studies to classify spinipegasus as separate genera.

The results of this study have enhanced our understanding of the resources of marine mothfish species, and also provided an important scientific reference for the study of marine biodiversity conservation in China’s offshore waters.

The relevant research work has been jointly funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the introduction of major projects by the talent team of the Guangdong Provincial Laboratory of Marine Science and Engineering (Guangzhou) in Southern Ocean Science and Engineering. (Source: China Science Daily Zhu Hanbin)

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