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Scientists Discover More Than 180 Reef Fish That Exhibit Biofluorescence

Biofluorescence is widespread in both cartilaginous and bony fishes.

By | January 9, 2014

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Scientists studying the biofluorescence in corals have discovered more than 180 fish that maintain fluorescent proteins in their bodies, effectively enabling them to glow when it is dark. These fish are located primarily on or near coral reefs and the scientists who made the discoveries (John S. Sparks,Robert C. Schelly, W. Leo Smith, Matthew P. Davis, Dan Tchernov, Vincent A. Pieribone, David F. Gruber) say that the presence of biofluorescence in these coral reef fish is a previously unrecognized evolutionary phenomenon that changes what is currently known about the evolution of marine fishes with regard to light and visual systems in marine environments. Their work, "The Covert World of Fish Biofluorescence: A Phylogenetically Widespread and Phenotypically Variable Phenomenon" was recently published in the PLoS One Journal.

Biofluorescence in fish
Figure 1. Diversity of fluorescent patterns and colors in marine fishes. A, swell shark (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum); B, ray (Urobatis jamaicensis); C, sole (Soleichthys heterorhinos); D, flathead (Cociella hutchinsi); E, lizardfish (Synodus dermatogenys); F, frogfish (Antennarius maculatus); G, false stonefish (Scorpaenopsis diabolus); H, false moray eel (Kaupichthys brachychirus); I, false moray eel (Kaupichthys nuchalis); J, pipefish (Corythoichthys haematopterus); K, sand stargazer (Gillellus uranidea); L, goby (Eviota sp.); M, goby (Eviota atriventris); N, surgeonfish (Acanthurus coeruleus, larval); O, threadfin bream (Scolopsis bilineata). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083259.g001

The scientists studied the presence of biofluorescence on coral reefs in the Bahamas, the Solomon Islands and the Cayman Islands. They conclude that Biofluorescence is widespread in both cartilaginous and bony fishes and that it is most common in certain cryptically pigmented and patterned marine species, including fish such as eels (Anguilliformes), lizardfishes (Aulopiformes), scorpionfishes (Scorpaenoidei), blennies (Blennioidei), gobies (Gobioidei), and flatfishes (Pleuronectiformes). The scientists have found elements of Biofluorescence in more than 180 species of fish covering 105 genera, 50 families and 16 orders. In addition to red fluorescence which has been already documented, certain fishes also exhibit green fluorescence and combinations of red, orange and green fluorescence.
The complete paper can be found here

 

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