Species of the subfamily Serraninae, such as sea basses and hamlets, are abundant in ichthyoplankton samples from the US Virgin Islands and Leeward Islands, as well as those from South Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. However, these larval stages are poorly described; of 35 species recorded in the area, only five are fully described. One of the difficulties in identification of these larvae to species through meristics is a high degree of overlap in meristic characters among species. Further, pre-flexion larvae are often not sufficiently developed to obtain accurate fin counts for species or even genus level identification. Genetic barcoding techniques have been developed to overcome such difficulties but are not cost-effective. Preliminary study of the larval stages of the subfamily Serraninae suggests that distinct pigment patterns exist, even at the preflexion stage, that may be useful for visual identification following genetic confirmation. The goal of this project was to 1) determine, with genetic confirmation, whether species-specific pigment patterns exist, and if so, 2) build several practical stage-specific identification keys. Out of 380 larval serranines, only 119 specimens were successfully sequenced. Eight species and two unidentifiable species were identified. Hierarchical clustering was used to reveal groupings of species at three flexion stages by their pigment patterns, and Canonical Analysis of Principal Coordinates was used to determine discriminating pigment location(s) for the species by their flexion stage. No distinction could be made with pigment patterns for the three Hypoplectrus spp. and between Serranus baldwini and S. tigrinus; they were treated as Hypoplectrus spp. and the S. baldwini-tigrinus species group. Three identification keys were made for each flexion stage for the three species and the two-species group.
Shiroza, Akihiro, "Key to identifications of connom species of larval sea basses and hamlets (Family Serranidae, Subfamily Serraninae) in the western Atlantic and the Caribbean" (2012). Internship Reports (Restricted). 225.
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