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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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The Starksia blenny

The Starksia blenny is a shallow–reef fish found in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific Oceans. Studied for well over 100 years, the Starksia blenny was thought to be three species. When working to identify the species of Starksia larvae by matching its DNA to DNA barcodes of Starksia adults, NMNH scientists found some major discrepancies. With further investigation, NMNH researchers discovered that what were thought to be three species–Starksia atlantica, Starksia lepicoelia and Starksia sluiteri–are actually ten. "It's like there were species hiding within other species, and it took the DNA combined with traditional techniques of looking at the morphology of the fish to reveal them," says Carole Baldwin, curator of Fishes at the National Museum of Natural History. This discovery could have been possible without studying the DNA, but it would have taken a very long time. Unlike traditional techniques, DNA points you to where the potential new species are. The discovery of seven new species in a well-studied geographic region and genus makes NMNH scientists wonder just how many other species are yet to be described—in coral reefs and other ecosystems.

 
Cryptic Species
Starksia robertsoni (top) and Starksia langi (bottom) are two of the seven newly-discovered species of blenny. Image courtesy of the National Museum of Natural History.

 

Reference: "Smithsonian Scientist Discovers Seven New Fish Species", Around the Mall: Scenes and Sightings from the Smithsonian Museums and Beyond , February 7 2011, accessed on May 07 2012

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