Thursday, June 29, 2017

European Spirlins: More species needed!

Still unnamed "Spercheios Sperlin", unique to the Spercheios River (we will soon name it). This one caught in spring near Lamia (note the "beak-like" mark near the upper-mid body...egret maybe?).

Athens, June 30th 2017

I do not advocate splitting for conservation's sake. Splitting is when a former species is "split" into more after further investigation.  A species, based on the phylogenetic species concept (PSC), must be proven to be  a unique evolutionary line. The PSC considers species as the smallest diagnosable cluster of individuals within which there is a parental pattern of ancestry and descent - even if this separation is rather recent or limited to one or very few morphological or genetic characters. So there are no longer any SUBSPECIES in this species concept! Gone are the days of the subspecies....And the PSC is dominating zoology (except birds, not yet). 

So the chromosomal chemistry is used to initially explore differences, track isolated populations and describe distinct and descrete lineages. The molecular work also explores the relatedness and estimated closeness of ancestral relationships. Its an interesting world: molecular techniques now describe animals and plants: a new microscopic natural history! 

In our recent paper, a large group of scientists explored the phylogenetic relationships and taxonomy of the spirlins (also known as schneiders or riffle daces) in the genus Alburnoides. (They are very similar -looking stream fishes, like the shiners in America).

Molecular analysis revealed 17 Eurasian lineages divided into two main clades, termed the Ponto-Caspian and European. Lineage richness is closely connected with the existence of known glacial refugia and long-term isolated basins. We advocate that there is an "underestimation of species richness" in the genus Alburnoides: the genetic analyses support the validity of 11 morphologically accepted species; apart from them, four phylogenetic lineages requiring descriptions as separate species were revealed.

The distribution area of the nominotypical species A. bipunctatus sensu stricto is newly defined. This means Greece will no longer have the nominate species. The southern Balkans are restated as a hotbed of Alburnoides speciation. The Albanian river systems, as well as the wider Ponto-Caspian basin exhibit complications among definite species delineations and gaps in understanding of the evolutionary processes; these areas require further investigations. A. ohridanus shows high divergence from the A. prespensis complex (the Aoos river fishes are in the "A. prespensis complex" but not officially described or named yet). The unnamed species from the Sperchios river is re-confirmed to have remarkable genetic distance from all others. 

Please read our paper at:


Thessalian Sperlin - related to the Strymon Sperlin (soon to become valid as Alburnoides thessalicus). (Pic from collecting expedition with my Czech colleagues). Note that the dead fish in the bottom shows more intense pigmentation. (God please forgive me for all the harm I have caused to the long-suffering fishes; just felt that for a moment). 

Strymon Sperlin, now officially Alburnoides strymonicus. (Pic from the Aggitis tributary in recent years).

The enigmatic "Prespa Complex Sperlin" from the Aoos River, still unnamed. We advocate calling them Αlburnoides. cf prespensis until further study. (Picture from the Aoos work in 2005 with my friend Uwe Dussling).