First Record of Saddleback Silver-biddy Gerres limbatus Cuvier, 1830 (Pisces: Gerreidae) from Shatt Al-Arab River and marine Territorial Waters of Iraq  

Atheer H. Ali , Jassim M. Abed , Majid M. Taher
Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources, College of Agriculture, University of Basrah, Basrah, Iraq
Author    Correspondence author
International Journal of Marine Science, 2014, Vol. 4, No. 59   doi: 10.5376/ijms.2014.04.0059
Received: 24 Jul., 2014    Accepted: 29 Aug., 2014    Published: 21 Oct., 2014
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Ali et al., 2014, First record of saddleback silver-biddy Gerres limbatus Cuvier, 1830 (Pisces: Gerreidae) from Shatt Al-Arab River and marine territorial waters of Iraq, International Journal of Marine Science, Vol.4, No.59 1-5 (doi: 10.5376/ijms.2014.04.0059)


Ten specimens of Saddleback silver-biddy, Gerres limbatusCuvier, 1830,were collected from Iraqi waters during 2010 through 2013. Two specimens were collected from the Shatt Al-Arab River and eight from marine territorial waters of Iraq near Khor Al-Ummiah. Meristic and morphometric characters are given. Differences between this species and the three other gerreids known from Iraqi waters [G. filamentosus Cuvier, 1829, G. oyena (Forsskål, 1775), and G. longirostris (Lacepède, 1801)] are discussed. The present records bring the total number of Gerres species in Iraq to four. Additionally, two new size records are reported for this species.

Gerres limbatus; Gerreidae; Perciformes; New distribution; Iraq; Arabian Gulf

The Gerreidae are small to medium-sized perciform fishes. Characteristics include a mouth strongly protractile downwards when extended; acute teeth in both jaws; first dorsal and anal spines very short;pelvic fins with 1 spine and 5 rays; pectoral fins long and pointed; and scale large and obvious. There are 9-11 dorsal spines in the Genus Gerres as compared to 12-18 in other genera of Gerreidae) (Woodland, 1983).

The Saddleback silver-biddy, Gerres limbatus Cuvier, 1830 is a small fish known from the southern and western coast of India, Sri Lanka, the southern Malay Peninsula, Gulf of Thailand and Indonesia, northern and western limits of the Kathiawar Peninsula, and the Mand River of Iran (Iwatsuki et al., 2001; Borkenhagen, 2010).
Sivasubramaniam and Ibrahim (1982) studied fishes of Qatar and reported G. filamentosus Cuvier, 1829 and G. oyena (Forsskål, 1775). Kuronuma and Abe (1986) during their extensive survey in the Arabian Gulf found only two species of Gerreidae, G. filamentosus and G. oyena. Al-Baharna (1986) carried out a survey of fishes of Bahrain and recorded G. argyreus (Forster, 1801) (now G. oyena), G. filamentosus, G. oyena, and Pentaprion longimanus (Cantor, 1850). Carpenter et al. (1997) listed Gerres acinaces Bleeker, 1854 (now G. longirostris [Lacepède, 1801]), G. filamentosus, G. oyena and Pentaprion longimanus in the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Gerres longirostris (reported as Gerres acinaces), G. filamentosus and G. oyena have been reported from United Arab of Emirates (Tamaei, 1999; EHC, 2003; Al-Lamy et al., 2012).
Reports of species of Gerreidae in Iraqi waters are rare. Khalaf (1961) and Mahdi (1962) reported G. punctatus Cuvier, 1830 (now G. filamentosus). Recently Mohamed et al. (2012) collected two specimens of G. oyena from Hamdan and Fao stations along of the Shatt Al-Arab River. Ali (2013) recorded G. longirostris from marine territorial waters of Iraq.
During extensive surveys of fishes from the Shatt Al-Arab River and marine territorial waters of Iraq, one species from family Gerreidae is recorded for the first time in Iraq. The morphometric and meristic characters which distinguished this species from other three species found in the region are presented.
1 Materials and Methods
A total of 10 specimens of G. limbatus Cuvier, 1830 were collected from the Shatt Al-Arab River near Hamdan (30°28N, 47°54E) and Abu Al-Khaseeb villages (30°27N, 47°58E), by coastal seine net during December 2010 and December 2012 respectively. An additional eight specimens were collected from marine territorial waters of Iraq near Khor Al-Ummiah (29º46’ N, 48º48’E) by trawl net during December 2011, December 2012 and March, August and December 2013 (Figure 1). The specimens were fixed and preserved in a 10% Formalin solution. Terminology followed Iwatsuki et al. (2001). All measurements are presented in millimetres [mm]. Common and scientific names of the fish followed Froese and Pauly (2014). The picture of the smaller specimen (<65 mm standard length [SL], Figure 2) is from the FAO (Froese and Pauly, 2014), as the original specimen was lost. All specimens are deposited temporarily in the senior author’s collection in the Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources, College of Agriculture, Basrah University.

Figure 1 Map of collection area, showing the stations, st 1: Hamdan, st 2: Abu Al-Khaseeb, st 3: Khor Al-Ummiah

Figure 2 Gerres limbatus. 113 mm SL, Khor Al-Ummiah (29º46’ N, 48º48’E), December 2013

2 Results
A total of 10 specimens of G. limbatus Cuvier, 1830were caught at three stations along the Shatt-Al-Arab River and from marine waters near Khor Al-Ummiah, Arabian Gulf. Absolute and relative (as % of SL) measurements of morphometric characters and meristic count data are provided (Tables 1 and 2).

Table 1 Meristic characters of Gerres limbatus collected from Iraqi waters

Table 2 Morphometric and biometric (expressed as percentage of SL) characteristics of 10 specimens of Gerres limbatus, collected from Iraqi waters (min=minimum, max=maximum, sd=standard deviation., all measurements in mm), SL = standard length

2.1 Description
Small and relatively deep body in small specimens with a slightly slender body in the larger specimens. The body is compressed; anterodorsal finely convex, ascending at an angle of ~40° to horizontal axis. The snout is short and less than eye diameter. Standard length [SL] 3.2-3.3xs head length, about 2.5 to 3 scale rows between the lateral line and the 5th dorsal spine base. The predorsal length is less than dorsal fin base length; pectoral fin length > head length. Tip of pectoral fin reaches beyond the vertical through the anterior margin of anus and at the vertical level of the base of 7th dorsal fin spine.First dorsal and anal spines very short. Second dorsal spine thick and equal to or slightly longer than the 3rd dorsal spine and longer than eye diameter. Caudal fin forked. Gill rakers: 5-6 on upper limb; one on the angle, and 7 on the lower limb. Fresh specimens have silvery body and four black saddles (barely discernible in the 60 mm SL specimen) with yellow pectoral and pelvic and anterior third of the anal fins and most of the caudal fin.The membrane between the spinous parts of dorsal fin have numerous black blotches (Figure 2).
3 Remarks
In present study, the four black saddles on the body were barely discernible on nine of the specimens whereas in the 60 mm SL individual the four saddles were clearly visible (as in Figure 3); Almost all of the meristic and morphometric characters of these specimens agree with those reported by Iwatsuki et al. (2001). The pectoral fin length is longer than head length in the most (nine out of ten) Iraqi specimens whereas the head length is greater than the pectoral fin length in Iwatsuki et al. (2001). We considered this minor difference as being due to intraspecific variation resulting from differences in geographical distribution of the species. The two largest specimens of G. limbatus (154 and 163 mm TL) were collected during March and August 2013 respectively. Both exceed the largest reported lengths. Woodland (1983) gave 150 mm TL as maximum size for G. lucidus (now G. limbatus). Iwatsuki et al. (2001) examined 53 specimens (45.9-111.5 mm SL) as well as the single specimen (~75.9 mm SL) in Borkenhagen (2010). Froese and Pauly (2014) listed 150 mm TL as the maximum size. Hence, two of the specimens collected from Iraqi waters represent new length records for G. limbatus.

Figure 3 Small specimen < 65 mm SL of Gerres limbatus from Froese and Pauly, 2014. Note thefour well-defined saddlebacks

The actual distribution of G. limbatus in the Arabian Gulf is still unknown. Bishop (2003) did not include G. limbatus on his checklist of fishes reported from Kuwaiti waters. Borkenhagen (2010) collected a single specimen ~85 km upstream of the mouth of the Mand River, Iran at a salinity of 2.5 PSU. The two specimens we collected from the Shatt Al-Arab River near Hamdan and Abu Al-Khaseeb villages were at
salinities of 1.4 and 2.7 PSU respectively. Woodland (1983) used G. lucidus Cuvier, 1830 as the valid name and G. limbatus as a questionable name under the former species.
Iwatsuki et al. (2001) resurrected G. limbatus as a valid species leaving G. lucidus a junior synonym. They were able to distinguish it from the "Gerres setifer complex" that occurred within the same area. They found the distribution of G. limbatus was restricted to the Southern and western coasts of India, Sri Lanka, the Southern Malay Peninsula, Gulf of Thailand, and Indonesia. Borkenhagen (2010) considered the single specimen of G. limbatus from the Mand River, Iran to be unusual since it occurred >2000 km west of the known area of distribution. He offered three possible explanations for the rarity of confirmed records of this species from Arabian Gulf: (i)G. limbatus has been present since the postglacial re-colonization of the Gulf by marine fish. However, the low sampling effort in estuaries and the lower reaches of rivers and the lack of attention to the identification of smaller fish species collected in artisanal fisheries could explain the lack of records; (ii) A recent natural colonization along the northern coast of the Indian Ocean, which could possibly be connected to global change; or (iii) the Arabian Gulf is one of the busiest waterways in the world and ballast water from ships is a possible, though unlikely, source of G. limbatus larvae or juveniles.
The collection of 10 G. limbatus individuals, including eight from marine waters, suggests that this species could be a winter migrant into the NW Arabian Gulf. Such migration was also suggested for G. longirostris (Lacepède, 1801) (See Ali, 2013). Gratwicke et al. (2006) found that a number of Caribbean lagoon fish species, including G. cinereus (=G. longirostris), migrated to reef habitats as adults.
In the present study, the smallest specimen (60 mm SL) of G. limbatus was collected in an estuary (Shatt Al-Arab River) and larger specimens (91-134 mm SL) were collected in marine waters. Although this is a small sample size, this finding could possibly suggest that there is a seasonal migration of this species between different habitats, as Gratwicke et al. (2006) reported for G. cinereus.
To the best of our knowledge there are few, if any, fisheries independent studies in the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, and tidal rivers in the region. Therefore there are few sources of data that could provide additional information on either the distribution of G. limbatus or its biology. Additionally, their small size makes them less likely than the larger G. oyena and G. filamentosus, to appear in local fish markets (Al-Khayat and Al-Ansi, 2007). The absence of biological and ecological information on G. limbatus makes it difficult to determine whether environmental conditions in the northwestern of the Arabian Gulf (Iraqi waters) provide the only natural habitat capable of supporting this species in this part of the Gulf.
The authors like to thanks Dr. Kai Borkenhagen from Senckenberg Research Institute, Frankfurt am Main, Germany for confirmed taxonomy of the fish. We also would like to thank Stephen Grabe from Seminole, Florida, USA, and Claudia Pogoreutz from the Leibniz Center of Tropical Marine Ecology, Bremen, Germany, for reviewing the manuscript.
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