Apogonidae: phylogenetics and taxonomy

Research on the South African species of cardinal fishes for Smiths' Sea Fishes introduced me to the taxonomic problems of the fish family Apogonidae. Evidence suggested that this widely distributed speciose (over 350 species) and ecologically important group is one of the least known among tropical reef fishes and was therefore in urgent need of research. This is a long term programme aiming to resolve synonymies, describe new species, and elucidate phylogenetic relationships within the Apogonidae through a series of revisions of genera and subgenera, as well as regional reviews.

While working on the revision of the genus Siphamia (Gon & Allen 2012) we discovered that two species had scales combining features of spinoid and ctenoid scales. This led to research on scale ontogeny (Gon 2016) in the Apogonidae demonstrating that scales of this family develop from cycloid to transforming ctenoid with an intermediate spinoid stage. 

We also discovered that in many species of this genus the tongue of many adult males is covered by an unusual white tissue (Gon & Pinchuck 2016). A similar tissue was found in cichlid species inhabiting the alkaline Lake Magadi and Lake Nakuru, Kenya.  The function of this tissue is still unknown.

Collaboration with Chinese researches confirmed the validity of a Jaydia striatodes (Yu et al. 2016) and its presence in Chinese waters. A new species is currently being described in collaboration with a team from the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum, Germany.