Coastal Fishes of the Western Indian Ocean


Coastal Fishes of the WIO pre publication brochure

Coastal Fishes of the Western Indian Ocean

Editors Phillip and Elaine Heemstra et al.

For much of the past 20 years a number of fish taxonomists from around the world have been collaborating in the compilation of an account of the coastal fishes of the Western Indian Ocean. This multi-volume work covers some 3500 species of fishes in the largest area of ocean a book like this has ever covered, from the Gulf of Aqaba to Cape Point and east to Kanyakumari, the southernmost point of India.

Following the success of Smiths' Sea Fishes, its previous internationally collaborative project, the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (formerly the JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology) embarked on a similar project that provides the means to identify the shallow-water fishes known from the tropical and warm-temperate waters of the entire WIO.

The new work covers the area from South Africa (Cape Point [18° E] and Cape Agulhas [34° S]), to the Red Sea, Persian Gulf and west coast of India (to Cape Comorin, the southernmost point of India [~80° E]), as well as all the WIO islands north of 35° S and west of 80° E. We have restricted our attention to the fishes that occur in the upper 200 m of coastal and oceanic waters. Species known mostly from the continental slope, between 200 and 1 000 m deep, are also included if they are occasionally found in shallow water.

Initially there were only five active taxonomists involved in the project. It became necessary to co-opt the help of ichthyologists from elsewhere in the world to deal with more than 260 families of fishes. The project also generated renewed interest worldwide in the diversity of fishes in the WIO, to the extent that between 2003 and 2012 about 140 new species of marine fishes were described from the WIO by scientists from Australia, Brazil, Britain, Japan and elsewhere. Over the years, several taxonomists travelled to South Africa to come and work on the fish collections at NRF-SAIAB.

The Western Indian Ocean is the largest area of ocean for which a work of this kind has ever been compiled.

The resulting publication, far more substantial than JLB Smith could have imagined, is arranged in five volumes, and covers species that occur in waters generally shallower than 200 m. The publication includes the oceanography of the WIO, the origins of coral reefs, an account of the people who laid the foundations of our knowledge of the fishes of the WIO, the evolution of bony fishes, maps of the WIO and more.

The Coastal Fishes of the Western Indian Ocean is nearing completion and the goal is that it becomes available in 2021.

An Expression of Interest form is provided below. 

Read more about the publication in our Featured Research.

Coastal fishes of the Western Indian Ocean: Pre-publication Brochure


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