Scientists catch fish evolving into three different species

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Washington, Feb 2 (ANI): A new study has found that a fish known as the King demoiselle is not just one type of fish, but three distinct groups that recently split from each other.

The study was carried out by Joshua Drew, a marine conservation biologist at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and his colleagues.

The King demoiselle is a variety of damselfish that lives in the Indo - West Pacific, from the Solomon Islands to the Philippines and through central Indonesia.

The area is known for its spectacular diversity, but the region also faces serious threats, including pollution, blast fishing, and oil spills from the shipping industry.

King demoiselles are common in shallow waters throughout the region's reefs.

The fish are small and they come in a wide range of color patterns, from spotted blue to gray with a big yellow stripe.

Those color variations alone don't necessarily mean much. In plenty of reef species, individual fish can take on a huge variety of appearances.

Juveniles often look different from adults. Males might look different from females.

While doing other research in the field, though, Drew's colleagues noticed that groups of King demoiselles looked different in different geographical regions.

Wondering if there might be something genetic going on, the researchers sent about a dozen fish samples to Drew in Chicago.

The samples were from three separate populations of fish in the South China Sea, the Philippines and Indonesia.

In his lab, Drew analyzed the samples for three genes-one that has evolved slowly, and two that have changed rapidly through time.

His results showed that the genes which have changed quickly look different from one geographical group to the next, indicating that the groups only recently began to split.

"That means that this little fish we thought was broadly distributed has a mosaic of individual populations and each one is genetically distinct," said Drew.

"That highlights how little we really know about how biodiversity on Earth is distributed," he said. "We really are in a situation where we are losing things before we even know they exist," he added. (ANI)

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