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    Coastal fishes of the western Indian Ocean

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    The primary purpose of this book is to provide a means of identifying the more than 3 200 species of coastal fishes known to occur in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO). Coastal fishes are those that inhabit waters generally less than ~200 m deep, the waters over continental and insular shelves, and upper continental slopes. The book also includes some oceanic species and species that live in deeper water, but are sometimes caught in trawls in less than 200 m, or that migrate into shallower waters at night to feed. The Western Indian Ocean (WIO), as treated in these volumes, is the area between Cape Point, South Africa, and 77°34' E, at Kanyakumari (formerly Cape Cormorin), the southernmost point of India, and to 40° S, just south of St Paul Island. Although considered as separate water bodies, the Red Sea and Persian/Arabian Gulf have been included. Some contributors have also chosen to include species from Sri Lanka. The region thus encompasses the entire east and southern coasts of Africa, Madagascar and the various island clusters of the Comoros, the Seychelles, the Maldive and Lakshadweep islands, the Chagos Archipelago and the islands and sea mounts of the Mascarene Plateau, to as far as 40° S, and thus some fishes from St Paul and Amsterdam Islands have been included. This large expanse, stretching from tropical waters of the northwestern Indian Ocean to the warm temperate waters of False Bay, South Africa, includes a number of poorly known biogeographic areas. A map of the entire Indian Ocean is placed on the inside front cover of each printed volume, with some areas in greater detail on the inside back cover. The book does not include distribution maps for species, but gives localities from which species are known, with emphasis on WIO localities; our understanding of distributions of many species is often incomplete. Fishes are the most abundant and diverse group of vertebrates and have colonised every aquatic habitat on Earth: the oceans, lakes, rivers and caves, from polar seas at –2 °C to hot, freshwater springs at 44 °C, and from tropical reefs and mangrove forests to the deepest ocean depths. Fishes are also the most poorly known group of vertebrates. In the 2006 edition of Joseph Nelson’s Fishes of the World the estimate of the number of species of extant fishes worldwide stood at about 23 000. This number is growing annually, and was thought to be about 33 460 species at the end of 2016 (www.fishwisepro.com). Between the years 2000 and 2015 an average of 150 new species of marine fishes were described each year – of which 10% of the total (156 species) were from the WIO. The WIO is home to about 15% of all the marine fish species in the world’s oceans. Another measure of the diversity of fishes of this area is its relatively high level of endemicity, particularly around southern Africa and in the Red Sea. About 13% of southern African marine fishes are endemic, most of these in only five families: Clinidae with about 44 endemic species, Gobiidae with 28, Sparidae with 28, Pentanchidae with 6, and Batrachoididae with 7 endemic species. In the Red Sea at least 170 of the more than 1100 species are endemic. The WIO region is also home to a large human population, representing a wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The area includes the countries of South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, as well as the many island nations and territories. Many of the people living in coastal areas are dependent on fish catches and other marine resources for both sustenance and often a livelihood, as highly diversified artisanal fisheries make up the bulk of the fishing effort in the region. And, as elsewhere in the world, many of the fish resources have been compromised by commercial interests (including those of other countries), often leaving fish stocks in a poor state. This book has a number of purposes, all of which coalesce around providing users with a better understanding of the area’s fishes and their environment. Accordingly, it includes a number of background chapters covering subjects as diverse as the oceanography of the region, and the history and evolution of the bony fishes. In recent years genetic analysis has proved to be a powerful tool for taxonomists. In many instances molecular results have caused taxonomists to rethink both the definitions of certain taxa and the interrelationships of taxa. In some instances, what were long considered cohesive (monophyletic) taxa were found to include groups of fishes that are in fact not closely related (paraphyletic), while in other instances taxa thought to be distinct were found not to be, meriting their merging with other existing taxa. At times, long-accepted family groups have been divided into two or more distinct families, or separate families have been combined into a single one. Where possible such changes in our understanding of the relationships of fishes are reflected in these volumes. Where some contributors have taken a more conservative approach by awaiting more research and not adopting these changes, alternative taxonomies are noted (see also the introductory chapter on Naming organisms and determining their relationships). For each species in the book, the literature pertinent to that species in the WIO is given: the original species description reference, synonyms for the region and other important taxonomic and biological references. For many commercially important species or fishes of interest to anglers there is additional information on life history, size and capture, and for some but not all species, their IUCN conservation status if Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered (in the first instance, valid at the time of writing. See www.iucnredlist.org for current information. Note: we have not included the IUCN conservation status where species are of Least Concern or Data Deficient). Most species are illustrated with photographs, drawings or paintings. Colour photographs and paintings are provided on plates for each volume.1st Editio
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