Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 22nd, 2008
The six-feet-long grouper that trolls the tropical waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean for octopuses and crabs has been identified as a new fish species after genetic tests. Called the goliath grouper, the fish weigh a whopping 1,000 pounds (454 kg). Until now, scientists had grouped this species with an identical looking fish (also called the goliath grouper, or Epinephelus itajara) living in the Atlantic Ocean.
“For more than a century, ichthyologists have thought that Pacific and Atlantic goliath grouper were the same species,” remarked one of the main discoverers, lead researcher Matthew Craig of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, “and the argument was settled before the widespread use of genetic techniques.”
New DNA results demonstrate that the two separately located goliath groupers are not the same species after all, and they have evolved into two separate species.
The new Pacific species, now designated as Epinephelus quinquefasciatus, is described in a recent issue of the journal Endangered Species Research.
The Atlantic variety, E. itajara, is currently listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Due to its scarcity, E. quinquefasciatus also may be considered critically endangered, notes Live Science.