New butterflyfish phylogeny announced

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A team of systematists from around the world have published a new evolutionary family tree for the marine butterfly fish family Chaetodontidae.

Tim Littlewood and Sarah McDonald of the Natural History Museum, London, Thomas Cribb of the University of Queensland and Tony Gill of Arizona State University conducted a molecular phylogenetic analysis of the Chaetodontidae to assess the existing morphological data for the group.

Their findings, which were published today in the systematics journal Zootaxa, are based on data from two partial mitochondrial gene fragments - cytochrome b (ctyb) and small subunit rRNA (rrnS) and covers 52 species in the Chaetodontidae family.

The study suggests that a clade containing Chelmon and Coradion is a sister group to other members of the chaetodontid family.

Prognothodes appears to be the most closely related genus to Chaetodon, appearing as a sister group. While Heniochus and Hemitaurichthys are sister taxa to each other and monophyletic in origin.

The team also looked at 10 subgenera within Chaetodon and found that all were monophyletic, however, the way that the subgenera were interrelated differed somewhat from what scientists already believed from morphological studies on the group.

Recent studies of the chaetodontids have looked mainly at bone and soft tissue morphology and problems in the way they have been coded cause the trees to differ in their topology.

For more details see the paper: Littlewood, DTJ., McDonald, SM., Gill, AC. and TH. Cribb (2004) - Molecular phylogenetics of Chaetodon and the Chaetodontidae (Teleostei: Perciformes) with reference to morphology. Zootaxa 779: 1-20.