Comprehensive DescriptionRead full entry
Our knowledge about the bythitid cave-fishes of the genus Lucifuga Poey ZBK was summed up by Cohen & McCosker (1998) and more recently in a FAO species catalogue of ophidiiform fishes (Nielsen et al. 1999). The genus was formerly split in two, based on presence (Stygicola Gill ZBK ) or absence ( Lucifuga Poey ZBK ) of palatine teeth (Gill 1863). Stygicola was lowered to subgeneric rank by Cohen & Robins (1970) and has been used commonly (e.g. Cohen & Nielsen 1978; Nalbant 1981; Cohen & McCosker 1998; Romaro & Paulson 2001). Phylogenetic and biogeographic analyses by Vergara (1980, 1981) did not support this subdivision of the genus, and in Nielsen et al. (1999) and Nielsen (2002) it was abandoned without arguments.
Presently six species are recognised: 4 from Cuba, 1 from the Bahamas and 1 from off Galapagos. The latter, L. inopinata Cohen & McCosker, 1998 ZBK , was included with some uncertainty due to strong affinities to Calamopteryx Boehlke & Cohen, 1966 ZBK (Cohen & McCosker 1998; Møller et al. 2004a). It is not included in the present paper, but will be treated separately in a subsequent paper.
The Bahamian species L. spelaeotes Cohen & Robins, 1970 ZBK was described from two specimens from a brackish water sinkhole (Mermaid’s Pool) on New Providence Island. Since then it has been collected and/ or reported several times from marine blue holes and inland caves on seven additional islands so that the total list of localities includes:
Little Bahama Bank Islands:
1. Grand Bahama Island: Lucayan Caverns (Yager 1981, Yager & Williams 1988, Smith -Vaniz & Böhlke 1991); Zodiac Caverns (Palmer 1985b, Cunliffe 1985)
2. Abaco Island: Inland sink hole (Smith -Vaniz & Böhlke 1991)
Great Bahama Bank Islands:
3. Berry Islands (Proudlove 2001)
4. Andros Island: ocean blue holes (Proudlove 1984, B. Kakuk in litt. (in Cohen & McCosker 1998)); Uncle Charlie’s Blue Hole (Farr & Palmer 1984, Proudlove 1984)
5. New Providence Island: Mermaid’s Pool (Cohen & Robbins 1970); R.M. Bailey School Cave (R. Attrill web page a)
6. Eleuthera Island: Nixon’s Blue Hole (B. Kakuk pers. comm., J. Dougherty pers. comm.); Sink Hole (A. Leggett pers. comm.)
7. Great Exuma Island: Angelfish Blue Hole (B. Kakuk pers. comm.)
8. Long Island: (J. Yager in litt. (in Cohen & McCosker 1998))
The Bahamas consist of two major banks: The Great Bahama Bank is a large, shallow water carbonate platform that also includes the major islands of New Providence, Bimini, Andros, Cat, Eleuthera, Great Exuma and Long Island. The Great Bahama Bank is separated from the Little Bahama Bank (containing the major Islands Grand Bahama and Abaco) by the Northeast (3800 to 4700 m deep) and Northwest (700 to 2800 m deep) Providence Channels. The banks are made up of limestone of shallow water origin having been deposited to a depth of at least 4500 m since the Cretaceous. Numerous caves and solutional karst features are present on most islands. In the Bahamas, such partially or totally submerged cave systems, occurring both inland and on the seabed, are referred to as “blue holes”. On Long Island for example, more than 60 blue holes are listed on topographic maps. Most notable of these is Dean's Blue Hole -the World's deepest marine cave reaching depths of 200 m (Wilson 1994).
Lucifuga spelaeotes ZBK is often referred to as the blind Bahamian cave-fish, but actually all specimens have small, developed eyes. Because of this and the presence of palatine teeth and 10 caudal finrays, L. spelaeotes ZBK has been regarded the most primitive/ ancestral species of the Atlantic Lucifuga ZBK spp., compared to the Cuban species with even more reduced eyes, 8 caudal finrays and no palatine teeth (except present in L. dentata and L. simile ZBK ) (Cohen and Robins 1970, Vergara 1980).
Despite the new records and collections, morphological data have only been published from the two type specimens and thus no information on the variability and ontogeny of the species is available. During examination of 50 specimens (42-166 mm SL) collected at seven different islands, it became obvious that at least two species are represented in the Bahamas. One new species is here described and L. spelaeotes ZBK is redescribed based on additional material (44 vs. 2 specimens).