Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Caribbean clingfish: Tiny, tenacious and tentatively toxic

Date:
May 14, 2014
Source:
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications
Summary:
Sometimes we think we know everything about something only to find out we really don't, said a biologist studying tiny fish. Scientists comparing a new clingfish to known ones discovered a new species, and made an important finding about a group of well-studied fish at the same time. They discovered a venom gland that had been missed until now.

A venomous (right) and non-venomous (left) Caribbean clingfish shows the differences in the subopercular bone.
Credit: Texas A&M University photo courtesy Dr. Kevin Conway and Dr. Carole Baldwin, Smithsonian Institution

Sometimes we think we know everything about something only to find out we really don't, said a Texas A&M University scientist.

Dr. Kevin Conway, assistant professor and curator of fishes with Texas A&M's department of wildlife and fisheries sciences at College Station, has published a paper documenting a new species of clingfish and a startling new discovery in a second well-documented clingfish.

The paper, entitled "Cryptic Diversity and Venom Glands in Western Atlantic Clingfishes of the Genus Acyrtus (Teleostei: Gobiesocidae)," was published May 13 in the PLOS ONE online journal.

The scientific paper documents the study Conway and his team, including Dr. Carole Baldwin, his collaborator at the Smithsonian Institution, and Macaulay White, former Texas A&M undergraduate, have been working on for several years.

"We are excited about the study, because it resulted in not only the discovery of an undescribed species, but also the discovery of a unique venom gland in a group of fishes nobody knew were venomous," Conway said. "New groups of venomous fishes are not discovered very often, in fact the last such discovery happened back in the 1960s. The shocking thing is that the fishes that possess the venom gland have been known to science for a long time, some for over 260 years, and have been pretty well studied."

Conway said clingfishes are globally distributed at temperate and tropical latitudes, and get their name from their ability to anchor themselves using their large belly sucker. The species Conway and his team discovered is a tiny marine fish less than an inch long that lives between pieces of coral rubble in very shallow water along the coast of Belize and islands in the Caribbean and Bahamas.

"Our work shows that even in relatively well-studied areas of the world's oceans, new species can be discovered as can unknown traits in well-documented species." Conway said.

Conway explained that in order to describe a new species, taxonomists have to make comparisons with other closely related species to ensure they are not "rediscovering" something already described by another researcher.

"During that comparison process we discovered that several species of Caribbean clingfishes, but not the new one we found, have a strange gland associated with a very sharp and spine-like subopercular bone, one of four bones that support the gill covers in fishes," Conway said. "The cells inside the gland are incredibly similar to those present inside the venom glands of scorpion fishes and certain catfish and based on this similarity, we are confident that these clingfishes are also producing some type of toxin."

"Discovering a venom gland in a group of well-studied fishes that has been known to science, some for well over two centuries, is truly remarkable," Conway said.

Conway explained that most of the world's 2,000-plus venomous species of fishes deliver their venom using a modified fin ray, sharp opercular spine or even through a large fang in their lower jaw. But the venom gland they discovered in the Caribbean clingfishes associated with the subopercular gill cover bone is the first of its kind to be discovered and in fact, is unique among all venomous fish described to-date.

"We do not know exactly what the venom is used for, but based on the position of the venom gland, it is more likely that it would be used for protection, as in most venomous fishes.

"We don't yet have any information about the toxic properties of these clingfishes, but we hope that our discovery will encourage other scientists to take a look at the venom gland we discovered in more detail," he said.

Conway said clingfishes are referred to as crypto-benthic fishes which means "small, bottom dwellers."

"Crypto-benthic fishes are not commercially important, but are considered by the scientific community to play an important role in marine ecosystems, because they are likely an important food resource for larger fishes," Conway noted.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Texas A&M AgriLife Communications. The original article was written by Steve Byrns. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kevin W. Conway, Carole Baldwin, Macaulay D. White. Cryptic Diversity and Venom Glands in Western Atlantic Clingfishes of the Genus Acyrtus (Teleostei: Gobiesocidae). PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (5): e97664 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0097664

Cite This Page:

Texas A&M AgriLife Communications. "Caribbean clingfish: Tiny, tenacious and tentatively toxic." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140514100316.htm>.
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications. (2014, May 14). Caribbean clingfish: Tiny, tenacious and tentatively toxic. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140514100316.htm
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications. "Caribbean clingfish: Tiny, tenacious and tentatively toxic." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140514100316.htm (accessed August 20, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Possible Ebola Patient in Isolation at California Hospital

Possible Ebola Patient in Isolation at California Hospital

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 20, 2014) — A patient who may have been exposed to the Ebola virus is in isolation at the Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 20, 2014) — Forget rolling on rubber, could car drivers soon be traveling on tires made from dandelions? Teams of scientists are racing to breed a type of the yellow flower whose taproot has a milky fluid with tire-grade rubber particles in it. As Joanna Partridge reports, global tire makers are investing millions in research into a new tire source. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) — Poachers have killed 100,000 elephants between 2010 and 2012, as the booming ivory trade takes its toll on the animals in Africa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) — Scientists have developed a new device that mimics the way octopuses blend in with their surroundings to hide from dangerous predators. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins