Measures of biodiversity are often hindered by a lack of methodological practices that distinguish cryptic or morphologically similar cohabiting species. This is particularly difficult for marine fishes where direct observations of the ecology and demography of populations are difficult. Dragonets (Foetorepus c.f. calauropomus) were collected as bycatch from research trawls deployed in waters off north-eastern Tasmania, Australia. Morphometric and genetic analyses were conducted on the 43 specimens recovered. Sequence analysis of two mitochondrial loci distinguished three genetic clusters, each having levels of dissimilarity consistent with species-level distinctions between other members of the Callionymidae. While clear morphological distinctions were observed between male and female fish, limited morphometric analyses could not differentiate between members of the three genetic groups. This finding highlights questions about the ability of genetically distinct but morphologically similar groups to occupy the same ecological niche, and points to additional and undescribed hidden biodiversity amongst cryptic species of fish.
- cryptic species
- mitochondrial DNA