Damsel is splitting into three species

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The King demoiselle, Chrysiptera rex, is a species in the process of splitting into three, according to a study to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Coral Reefs.

Authors Joshua Drew, Gerry Allen and Mark Erdmann and came to this conclusion after studying fish from Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines.  

The King demoiselle is a species common throughout much of the Indo-West Pacific notable for the extreme colour variations expressed by several geographically distinct populations.  

The authors tested the hypothesis that the different colour morphs represented different lineages (clades), using fragments of two rapidly evolving mitochondrial genes (control region and cytochrome b) and a slower evolving nuclear gene (RAG2).  

The authors found an exact match between the colour morphs and their genetic makeup, i.e. the three colour morphs represented three distinct lineages: Japan and Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines.  

These results indicate that the taxonomic status of the different colour morphs as deserving of further study, wrote the authors.  

They conclude, “he identification of three genetically differentiated populations indicates a lack of broad scale connectivity across the range of this species, and that conservation measures should be more finely focused on regional or even more localized scales.”

For more information, see the paper: Drew, JA, GR Allen & MV Erdmann (2010) Congruence between mitochondrial genes and color morphs in a coral reef fish: population variability in the Indo-Pacific damselfish Chrysiptera rex (Snyder, 1909). Coral Reefs doi: 10.1007/s00338-010-0586-5