First record of Antennarius indicus (Pisces: Antennaridae), Equulites elongates (Actinopterygiidae: Leiognathidae) and Cheilinus lunulatus (Actinopterygiidae: Labridae) from the Marine Waters of Iraq  

Laith A. Jawad1 , Sadek Hussain2
1.Manukau, Auckland, New Zealand
2.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. 40   doi: 10.5376/ijms.2014.04.0040
Received: 13 Jun., 2014    Accepted: 15 Jul., 2014    Published: 28 Jul., 2014
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This is an open access article published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

First records of three fish species from the Iraqi marine waters are reported: Indian frogfish Antennarius indicus, slender ponyfish Equulites elongatus and broomtail wrasse Cheilinus lunulatus. This record includes the northernmost record of A. indicus and E. elongatus and confirmation for the presence of C. lunulatus in the Arabian Gulf waters. This work also includes new size record for A. indicus and E. elongatus

Range extension; Arabian Gulf; Iraq; Invasion; Antennaridae; Leiognathidae; Labridae

Several studies have been published on the marine fish fauna of Iraq in the last few decades (Khalaf, 1961; Mahdi, 1962, 1971; Al-Daham, 1982; Al-Hassan and Al-Badri, 1986; Al-Hassan and Miller, 1987; Hussain et al., 1988; Hussain and Naama, 1989; Fricke and Al-Hassan, 1995; Mohammed et al., 62001; Ali 2013a, b). However it still remains not fully investigated and there are large amount of taxonomic works waiting to be done (Jawad, 2012).
In the recent decade, several programs have been started to survey the Iraqi waters of the Arabian Gulf aiming to explore fish diversity of this area and create a list of species that are present in the northwest part of the Arabian Gulf.
In the present study the Antennarius indicus, Schultz, 1964, Cheilinus lunulatus (Forsskål, 1775), and Equulites elongatus (Günther, 1874are recorded from the waters of the Arabian Gulf of Iraq for the first time. The record of Antennarius indicus, Schultz, 1964 and Equulites elongatus (Günther, 1874) is considered the first to the Arabian Gulf area.
1 Materials and Methods
Specimens of A. indicus, E. elongatus and C. lunulatus were recorded fromthe coasts of the city of Basrah at the north-western corner of the Arabian Gulf (29º 47' N 48º 43' E) on 20th March 2012. Fish specimens were obtained by small trawler operating in the Arabian Gulf and Sea of Oman for commercial fishing and made available for taxonomic examination (Figure 1). Morphometric and meristic detailswere recorded following the method described by Pietsch (1983) and Gomon (1983) and (Kimura et al., 2005) for A. indicus, C. lunulatus, and E. elongatus respectively. The morphometric and meristic data are presented in Table 1. Thespecimens are deposited in the fish collection ofthe Marine Science and Fisheries Centre, Ministryof Fisheries Wealth, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman,catalogue number OMMSFC 1230-1232.



Figure 1 Map showing sampling locality


2 Results

Antennarius indicus
Total length of ten specimens collected was 120-260 mm (Figure 2). The morphometric and meristic characters are given in Table 1. The specimens of Antennarius indicus were characterised by the following features: second dorsal spine is shorter or equal to the illicium, the esca with a cluster of leaf-like appendages. Yellow to yellowish-brown esca with two or three dark ocelli.Dark brown rows of spots are present on all fins. The illicium is dark with band.

Table 1.Morphometric and meristic characters of Antennarius indicus (n=10), Equulites elongatus (n=4) and Cheilinus lunulatus (n= 10) collected from the Arabian Gulf coasts of Iraq (TL, total length; HL, head length; SL standard length).
Antennarius indicus
Equulites elongatus
Cheilinus lunulatus
290 - 410
SL (% in TL)
Head length (% in SL)
Eye diameter (% in HL)
Preorbital length (% in HL)
Posorbital length (% in HL)
Predorsal fin length (% in SL)
Postdorsal fin length (% in SL)
Prepectoral fin length (% in SL)
Preanus length (% in SL)
Preanal fin length (% in SL)
Postanal fin length (% in SL)
Maximum body depth (% in SL)
Caudal peduncle depth (% in SL)
Pectoral fin length (% in SL)
Dorsal fin spines
Dorsal fin rays
Anal fin spines
Anal fin rays
Pectoral fin ray



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Equulites elongatus
Total length of four specimens was 100-102 mm (Figure 3). The morphometric and meristic characters are given in Table 1. Equulites elongatus is characterised in having naked head, chest is fully scaled. The second spine of the dorsal and the anal fins are not elongated. Downward directed mouth with mandible is slightly concave. Adipose eyelid with sharp indentation on its posterior margin. Jaws with small teeth. Pectoral axil is black. Presence of supraorbital. Cheeks are naked. Gill rakers with small spines. Silvery body colour with upper half having irregular brown spots. Dorsal fin with a horizontal yellow single band on the spinous part.  All fins with orange edges. The base of the dorsal and anal ray with black spot (Figure 3).



Figure 3 Equulites elongates, 98 mm total length (OMMSFC 1231)


Cheilinus lunulatus
Total length of ten specimens collected was 290-410 mm (Figure. 4). The morphometric and meristic characters are given in Table 1.The collected specimens of C. lunulatus were characterised by having a deep body. The anterior part of the head profile is straight and the posterior part of the head profile is convexly curved. Jaws are large and noticeable. Dorsal fin is continuous and pelvic fin is reaching beyond origin of the anal fin. Caudal fin rounded. Lateral line is interrupted at the posterior end of the dorsal fin base. The scales are reaching the bases of the dorsal and the anal fins. Cheek, opercle and snout are scaleless. Body with blackish colouration and with a single broad dark green bar. Head is dark green. A prominent yellow mark and small orange-red spots on opercular flap. Dark green dorsal and anal fins, but anal with fewer red markings. Caudal fin is black and pectoral fin bright yellow. Pelvic fins dark green with 4-5 longitudinal streaks.



Figure 4 Cheilinus lunulatus, 290 mm total length (OMMSFC 1232)


3 Discussion
Two of the three species reported in the present study, showed narrow distribution A. indicus Schultz, 1964 and C. lunulatus, while E. elongatus (Günther, 1874)displayed wide dispersal. Antennarius indicus and E. elongatushave not been recorded from the Arabian Gulf waters before.
The present distribution of the Indian frogfish A. indicus is in the Western Indian Ocean from East Africa, Gulf of Aden, and Seychelles to southeast India and Sri Lanka, north to the Gulf of Oman (Froese and Pauly, 2014). The nearest locality to the Iraqi marine waters where this species is recorded is the Gulf of Oman (Randall, 1995) (1320 Km). The present record extends it range to the north, to the Arabian Gulf coasts off Iraq where it considered as the first record for this area. It also provides evidencethat Randall’s specimen (1995) was not just a sheer accident ofa stray event. It also support the suggestion presented by Jawad and  Al-Mamry (2009) that their record of this species from the Arabian Sea coasts of Oman has changed the rare status of this speciesgiven by Randall (1995) to a common status.
The morphometric and meristic characters were similar to those given by Randall (1995).The size of the specimens reported by Randall (1995) (250 mm total length), Froese and Pauly (2014) (230 mm total length) and Jawad and Al-Mamry (2009) (45-148 mm total length) are smaller than the range of the total length in the specimens obtained in the present study (230-260 mm). This makes the largest specimen attained a new record size for this species.
This species differs from other Antennarius species in having large esca consisting of a cluster of leaf-like appendages, ten pectoral fin rays and presence of round dark spot at base of second dorsal fin.
Froese and Pauly (2014) stated that the present distribution of slender ponyfish E. elongatus(Günther, 1874)in the Indo-West Pacific region from the east coast of Africa and off southwest India to the Philippines, Japan and Australia. Recently it has been recorded from the Arabian Sea coasts of Oman (Jayabalan et al., 2010) and Gulf of Oman (Jawad et al., 2012).The present record extends its range to the north, to the Arabian Gulf coasts of Iraq where it considered a new record for this area and for Iraq.
Comparison of the present specimens with those of Jayabalan et al. (2010) (54-64 mm total length), Golani et al. (2011) (75 mm total length) from the Mediterranean Sea and Jawad et al. (2012) (62.9-74 mm total length), it is clear that the current specimens, 100 to 102 mm total length, are the highest observed and it is consider new record size for this species.
The broomtail wrasse C. lunulatus has a narrow range of distribution, it is found in the Western Indian Ocean from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Oman. Both the lists of countries and the point map of Froese and Pauly (2014) did not show the presence of this species in the Iraqi waters. Assadi and Dehghani (1997) and IFC and IFRO (2000) have reported this species from the Iranian waters, whilst Parenti and Randall (2000) reported it from the Arabian Gulf, but they did not mention the coast of which country their record comes from. Al-Baharna (1986) reported this species from Bahrain and the present record is a confirmation of its presence in the Iraqi marine waters and the second record for the Arabian Gulf area.
The Cheilinus species differ from this species as follow: Cheilinus chlorurus (Bloch, 1791) having opercular flap not black, with a yellow streak; C. abudjubbe Rüppell, 1835 with four pairs of long red lines radiating from eye on head; C. fasciatus (Bloch, 1791) with distinctive sides of yellowish to white bars, and large red areas; the head of C. trilobatus Lacepède, 1801 with short red lines around eye and irregular red lines and spots on cheek and nape and caudal fin often trilobate in very large specimens.C. undulatus Rüppell, 1835 differ from this species in having a prominent bulbous hump on the forehead and thick lips.
The range of the total length of the specimens of this species obtained in the present study falls near the upper end of the maximum size given for this species (Ranadll , 1995; Froese and Pauly, 2014) and falls within the range given by Khalaf Allah (2013) (139-432 mm total length) for specimens obtained from the Red Sea coasts off Egypt.
The present record of A. indicus, E. elongatus, andC.  lunulatus from the marine waters of Iraq constitutes a substantial northward extension of the distribution of these species (1320-1650 Km). The finding of twenty four specimens of the three species from the Arabian Gulf coasts of Iraq suggests that the wide spread in the ichthyological sampling in the area has ended perception of rarity of these species. It may also suggests that these species may be overlooked and the lack of sampling in the area prevents their regular detection in the north-western part of the Arabian Gulf. The capture of ten specimens of each of A. indicus andC. lunulatusduring this study should not be regarded as accidental it may indicates the presence of a self - sustaining population of these two species in the Arabian Gulf waters of Iraq. It is premature to assess whether the present occurrence is represented by only a few visitors of E. elongatus accidentally found in the new area, or whether these specimens are a part of an established population. Thus, the present records can be considered important for the understanding of zoogeographical patterns of ichthyofauna in the area.
Our sincere thanks should go to Joacin Näslund from Göteborg, Sweden for his technical assistant.

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