Pseudopataecus taenianotus, Johnson, 2004

Johnson, J. W., 2004, Two New Species and Two New Records of Aploactinid Fishes (Pisces: Scorpaeniformes) from Australia, Records of the Australian Museum 56, pp. 179-188: 181-184

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Pseudopataecus taenianotus


Pseudopataecus taenianotus   n.sp.

Longfin velvetfish

Figs. 3a,b, 1; Table 2

Type material. HOLOTYPE: QM I.33192, 82 mm, WSW of Lady Musgrave Island, 23°57.21'S 152°13.32'E, scallop trawl, 37 m, Qld Fisheries Service , 4 October 2000 GoogleMaps   . PARATYPES: AMS I.42652-001, 75 mm, NE of Burnett Heads , 24°39.028'S 152°41.438'E, scallop trawl, 25 m, Qld Fisheries Service, 12 October 2002 GoogleMaps   ; QM I.30723, 93 mm, 15 mi NE of Burnett Heads , 24°38'S 152°36'E, scallop trawl, G. Lowe, 27 January 1982 GoogleMaps   ; QM I.33193, 80 mm, NE of Burnett Heads , 24°36.52'S 152°31.91'E, scallop trawl, 20 m, Qld Fisheries Service, 9 October 2000 GoogleMaps   ; QM I.33850, 93 mm, NE of Rodds Peninsula , 23°51.44'S 151°48.27'E, scallop trawl, 36 m, Qld Fisheries Service, 11 December 2002 GoogleMaps   ; QM I. 33944, 108 mm, W of Bunker Group , 23°48.1'S 151°56.50'E, scallop trawl, 40 m, Qld Fisheries Service, 10 October 2002 GoogleMaps   ; QM I.33945, 97.5 mm, NE of Keppell Islands , 22°59.01'S 151°17.37'E, scallop trawl, 40 m, Qld Fisheries Service, 14 October 2002 GoogleMaps   .

Non-type material. QM I.33941, 2: 81.5–82 mm, NW of Sandy Cape, 24°30.87'S 152°53.62'E, scallop trawl, 35 m, Qld Fisheries Service, 13 October 2002 GoogleMaps   ; QM I.33942, 2: 74–107 mm, NE of Burnett Heads , 24°39.33'S 152°43.03'E, scallop trawl, 28 m, Qld Fisheries Service, 12 October 2002 GoogleMaps   ; QM I.33943, 97 mm, E of Round Hill Head , 24°08.24'S 152°10.26'E, scallop trawl, 33–37 m, Qld Fisheries Service, 14 October 2002 GoogleMaps   .

Diagnosis. See generic diagnosis.

Description. Head 3.3 (3.1–3.3) in SL, markedly compressed and covered with modified scales ending in spinous points; scales less dense on snout and interorbital space. Dorsal profile of head convex, ascending steeply, obscured by loose skin at base of extremely anteriorly inserted dorsal fin, inclined dorsoposteriorly about 60° from horizontal. Eye 3.8 (3.8–4.6) in head. Lachrymal spines connected at base, with broad blunt points, first directed anteroventrally over maxilla, second slightly longer and narrower, directed posteriorly just below the horizontal. Small blunt bony knob-like spine at base of first lachrymal spine. Suborbital ridge with 4 or 5 low knob-like spines, covered with skin, anterior two difficult to detect. Interorbital ridges not prominent, covered with skin, laterally-bowed at midlength, then gently converging posteriorly to meet a flat transverse bony process anterior to base of first dorsal spine; ridges forming a shallow fleshy depression in their interspace ( Fig. 1). Tip of rostral cartilage from ascending premaxillary processes evident by a low bump in fleshy depression. Simple to poorly branched cirrus anteriorly at inside edge of each ridge and posteriorly at the outside edge of each ridge. No spines on nasals. Anterior nostril a simple tab-like tube midway between eye and tip of snout. Posterior nostril just anterior to middle of eye, a less prominent open tube with anterior margin raised. Fleshy, slightly raised pores at snout tip, middle of lower margin of lachrymal, and at upper and lower margins of preopercle. Preopercle with 5 blunt spines; dorsalmost largest, projecting laterally and posterodorsally; others with broader tips, directed perpendicular to curve of preopercular margin, gradually decreasing in size; lower 3 each armed with a poorly branched cirrus. Anterior edge of interopercle with 2 similar cirri. Operculum with 2 ridges; lower horizontal, reaching opercular margin; upper inclined about 45°to the horizontal, not reaching opercular margin; neither with spinous tips. Dorsal margin of operculum scalloped and steeply inclined dorsoposteriorly; opercular tip narrow, directed toward seventh or eighth dorsal spine. Supraocular, sphenotic, pterotic, lower posttemporal and supracleithral spines forming similar-sized blunt ridges; less prominent and covered with thicker skin in larger paratypes. Cleithrum without spine. Ventral surface of lower jaw with numerous branched and unbranched cirri, those at posterior of outer row longest, up to about half eye diameter; those anterior and in inner rows mostly shorter and unbranched; more papillose and tufted anteriorly in larger paratypes. Prominent pores ventrally at middle and posterior of mandibles. Both lips papillose, but papillae more cirri-like anteriorly, those at tip of lower lip particularly well developed. Maxilla broad, scaled, with a well-developed cirrus near lower margin; rear margin very slightly curved, extending just beyond a vertical from anterior margin of eye. Both jaws with broad uniform band of minute firm conical teeth. Similar small but welldeveloped teeth in a crescentic band on the vomer, band projecting anteriorly and widest medially. No teeth on palatines. Tongue stout and rounded. Gill rakers short knobs, 1 (0–1) on upper limb, 5 on right side and 6 on left side of lower limb in holotype (4–6), total 6 on right side and 7 on left side of first arch (5–7); when present the single raker on upper arch very poorly developed. Spacing of rakers somewhat irregular, usually a short gap devoid of rakers below and adjacent to angle of arch. No slit behind posterior hemibranch. Branchiostegal membranes not fused to isthmus. Isthmus with fleshy extension anteriorly, slightly expanded, its free tip longer than wide.

Body markedly compressed, depth 3.0 (2.8–3.0) in SL, width 6.9 (6.4–6.9) in SL, densely covered with modified scales. Lateral line with 14 (13–14) tubes, gently sloping posteroventrally to the midlateral, then continuing in a generally straight course to the caudal base. Tubed scales mostly armed with a small cirrus; last scale on the caudal base. Dorsal fin originating slightly more than two-thirds of eye diameter before anterior margin of eye. Second dorsal-fin spine longest, first or third next longest, spines decrease in length posteriorly to sixth or seventh spine, then slightly increase at seventh or eighth, with ninth to fourteenth spines approximately equal in length. Dorsalfin membrane not or very weakly incised, membrane from last dorsal-fin ray adnate to upper corner of caudal-fin base. Pectoral fin rounded, tips of rays protruding from membrane, fourth or fifth ray longest, reaching vertical between anus and first anal-fin spine. Pelvic fin relatively long and slender, 1.5 (1.5–1.7) in distance from their base to anus; with flexible spine and 3 rays; first ray subequal to second, third or innermost ray rudimentary and much shorter; longest pelvic-fin ray subequal to fifth dorsal-fin spine; pelvic-fin membrane not adnate to body. Anal fin with single short spine, not protruding from membrane; rays gradually increasing in length to ninth or tenth, last two shorter; membranes distinctly incised. Caudal fin rounded, with 12 (12–13) rays; the latter protruding slightly from membrane. All fin-rays unbranched. Vertebrae 30.

Preserved coloration (in alcohol). Pale grey-brown with irregular fine darker brown mottlings and diffuse blotches on head and body. Two round dark brown blotches, slightly larger than eye, on upper body just reaching lateral line, first above middle of pectoral fin and second below last dorsal-fin rays, fading in preservative. Dorsal and pectoral fins with fine dusky mottling, darkest on outer half of fin. Anterior elevated portion of dorsal fin with slightly more defined pattern of wavy markings. Anterior edge of first dorsal-fin spine with irregular transverse dark brown bars. Caudal, anal and pelvic fins with more uniformly distributed dusky mottling.Tips of all fin rays pale.A narrow transparent area of membrane at upper and lower posterior margin of caudal fin. Ventral side of head, breast and belly pale.

Live coloration. Fresh specimens dull red to chocolatebrown in ground coloration, with breast and belly cream to creamy yellow.

Etymology. Pseudopataecus   from the Greek pseudo, “false”, in reference to the superficial but false likeness to the pataecid genus Pataecus   . The species epithet taenianotus   refers to its long ribbon-like dorsal fin.

Distribution. Known from the types and five other specimens, all taken between 20 and 40 m depth by scallop trawl offshore inside the Capricorn-Bunker Group (22°59.01' to 24°39.33'S), in southern Queensland, Australia. Trawls were carried out over predominantly sandy bottom, with some scattered shell and rubble. Brown algae Padina sp.   and smaller amounts of rubble and the seagrasses Halophila ovalis   and H. spinulosa   , were recorded in the catch with one of the specimens.

Discussion. Pseudopataecus taenianotus   appears most closely related to Aploactisoma milesii ( Richardson, 1850)   , but differs in having much less prominent and sculptured cranial ridges, interorbital ridges laterally-bowed versus strongly convergent, more compressed head and body (body width 6.4–6.9 versus 4.3–5.7 in SL, interorbital width 3.8– 4.3 versus 3.5–3.8 in head length), fin rays longer and less robust (longest dorsal-fin ray 1.2–1.4 versus 1.8–2.3, longest anal-fin ray 1.6–1.8 versus 2.0– 2.5 in head length), velvety scales less papillose and robust, and three versus two pelvicfin rays. The differences between these two species are clearly accentuated with age. There is little change in proportions with growth in P. taenianotus   , but A. milesii   becomes increasingly robust with age.

There are strong anecdotal and survey-based indications that the range of this species is patchy and limited broadly to that documented here. A photograph of Pseudopataecus taenianotus   presented to commercial scallop fishermen from the Bundaberg region was promptly identified as a species occasionally captured from the northern Hervey Bay– Bundaberg region (c. 23°30'– 24°50'S), “on grounds rich in algae, sponges and various invertebrates”. They reported that it was “absent on scallop grounds to the north where the substrate is generally much cleaner” (lacking in rubble, plant and sessile invertebrate growth). It is most likely that the fishermens’ reports pertain to P. taenianotus   , rather than another scorpaeniform species. The pataecid, Pataecus fronto Richardson   , is superficially similar in appearance, however the latter has a more southerly distribution (northernmost record is off Alexandra Headland, 26°40'S Johnson, 1999: 728), lacks pelvic fins, and has a more uniform and brighter reddish coloration. The scorpaenid, Ablabys taenianotus (Cuvier)   has a similar compressed appearance and long-based dorsal fin, however it has smooth cycloid scales (rather than dense velvety scales), and obviously pungent spines to the dorsal and anal fins. No other known aploactinid fish from Australian tropical waters is easily confused with P. taenianotus   . Specimens of P. taenianotus   have also failed to feature in numerous museum collections and research surveys using trawl gear in similar depths elsewhere throughout eastern Australia. Most of the twelve known specimens have been collected in a relatively small patch NE of Burnett Heads. This is despite intensive collecting by long-term monitoring and scallop bycatch research surveys throughout the region. It seems likely that the occurrence of this species is correlated with bottom structure, flora or invertebrate communities specific to the area. It could potentially be threatened by concentrated fishing effort within its narrow range.


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