Integrative taxonomy reveals a rare and new cusk-eel species of Luciobrotula (Teleostei, Ophidiidae) from the Solomon Sea, West Pacific
With six valid species, Luciobrotula is a small genus of the family Ophidiidae, commonly known as cusk-eels. They are benthopelagic fishes occurring at depths ranging from 115–2300 m in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. Among them, Luciobrotula bartschi is the only known species in the West Pacific. Three specimens of Luciobrotula were collected from the Philippine Sea, Bismarck Sea, and Solomon Sea in the West Pacific during the AURORA, PAPUA NIUGINI, and MADEEP expeditions under the Tropical Deep-Sea Benthos program, and all of them were initially identified as L. bartschi. Subsequent examination with integrative taxonomy indicates that they belong to two distinct species, with the specimen collected from the Solomon Sea representing a new species, which is described here. In terms of morphology, Luciobrotula polylepis sp. nov. differs from its congeners by having a relatively longer lateral line (end of the lateral line below the 33rd dorsal-fin ray) and fewer vertebrae (abdominal vertebrae 13, total vertebrae 50). In the inferred COI gene tree, the two western Pacific species of Luciobrotula do not form a monophyletic group. The genetic K2P distance between the two species is 13.8% on average at the COI locus.
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