The Cyprus Killifish | 2017-2018 Update | Genetics

In late 2017 the Freshwater Life Project team headed to Cyprus  field research trip to Cyprus Cypriot Killifish project, team members visited all three known localities of the species to collect and preserve samples for genetic analysis; we also used this opportunity to monitor make observations on the status of each habitat Determining and understanding the phylogenetic relationship of the three populations to each other and to closely related conspecifics from other Mediterranean habitats has not been done previously and is important in order to find out the following:

  • Is the Cyprus Killifish a significantly divergent geographic variant or distinct species / subspecies? Where does it sit on the family tree?
  • How closely related are each of the Cypriot populations to each other?
  • How closely is it related to its relatives in the Mediterranean?

Identifying these three things will help us to determine the urgency of our conservation efforts, e.g. a unique endemic species with a small distribution range is highest priority for conservation. It will also help us to know how best to execute conservation methods e.g. correct implementation and management of captive breeding programs. But it also helps to to get a better idea of how the species came to be isolated and makes it easier to represent the case for ongoing monitoring and protection of its habitats.

Our preserved genetic samples were sent to Italy earlier this year to be part of a masters program overseen by Prof. Ferruccio Maltagliati at Università degli studi di Pisa. Professor Maltagliati conducted his first genetic work with Aphanius Killifish in 1998 and has worked extensively with Aphanius fasciatus, the supposed species found in Cyprus for several decades now; the results will be published in 2019 in an academic journal.