New Record of Neobythites steatiticus Alcock, 1894 (Actinopterygii: Ophidiidae) from the Marine Waters of Iraq  

Laith A. Jawad1 , Mustafa A. Al-Mukhtar2 , Abbas J. Al-Faisal2 , Tariq Hammed2
1. Manukau, Auckland, New Zealand
2. Marine Science Centre, University of Basrah, Basrah, Iraq
Author    Correspondence author
International Journal of Marine Science, 2014, Vol. 4, No. 32   doi: 10.5376/ijms.2014.04.0032
Received: 19 Feb., 2014    Accepted: 13 May, 2014    Published: 29 Jul., 2014
© 2014 BioPublisher Publishing Platform
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.

The first record of Neobythites steatiticus in the Iraqi waters of the Arabian Gulf is reported based on a single specimen 370 mm in total length, obtained from south of Faw City Peninsula, Basrah, Iraq, Arabian Gulf. This account represents the northernmost range extension of this species in the north of the Indian Ocean region. The specimen is larger than the type specimen of the species and larger than other specimen obtained from other locations and it is considered a record size for this species.

New record; Range extension; Ophidiidae; Basrah; Arabian Gulf

The family Ophidiidae comprises 261 valid species, into four sub-families with Neobythitinae being the largest with 185 valid species (Eschmeyer and Fong, 2014). This species, Neobythites steatiticus, (Alcock, 1894) is present in the Indian Ocean from the Persian Gulf to the Bay of Bengal (Froese and Pauly, 2014). In spite of the several publication that appeared on the marine fish fauna of Iraq during the last few decades (Khalaf 1961; Mahdi 1971; Al-Daham 1982; Al-Hassan and Al-Badri 1986; Al-Hassan and Miller 1987; Hussain et al. 1988), the marine ichthyofauna is still far from being fully known and documented: a considerable amount of taxonomic work is waiting to be done (Jawad 2012). Low fishing sampling effort along the continental slope in the Arabian Sea and the Gulfs might be the reason for the lack of information on the deep-water fish communities in the Arabian Gulf (Nielsen, 2002).
Recently, several programs have been started to survey the Iraqi waters of the Arabian Gulf in order to study the fish biodiversity of this area and aiming to build up a list of species that present in the northwest part of the Arabian Gulf. The Neobythites steatiticus was first described by Alcock in 1894 from Bay of Bengal. Since then it has been reported from different localities within the Indian Ocean (Nielsen et al., 1999; Nielsen, 2002; Uiblein and Nielsen, 2005; Eschmeyer and Fong, 2014).
This study reports the occurrence of N. steatiticus in the Arabian Gulf coasts of Iraq. This species is rare, but it is known from the Arabian Gulf area (Nielsen, 2002; Uiblein and Nielsen, 2005) and the present record represents the first record to the Iraqi marine waters.
1 Materials and Methods
The Neobythites steatiticus specimen was caught on 4th February 2014, near the southern coast of Faw City Peninsula, Iraq, Arabian Gulf (latitude: 29˚49ˊ46.01 N; longitude: 48˚45ˊ53.17 E) by fishermen using 240 × 10 m drifting gill nets of 35 × 35 mm mesh size. This specimen was measured by the second author with dial callipers to the nearest 0.1 mm at the collection site right after collection. The morphometric and meristic details were recorded according to Nielsen et al. (1999). The body proportions are taken as follows: Total length (TL), from the anterior tip of the head to the posterior tip of the tail; standard length (SL), from the anterior tip of the head to the end of the vertebral column which is situated just at the base of the caudal fin; head length (HL), from the anterior tip of the head to the posterior edge of the operculum; orbital diameter (OD), the horizontal length across the orbit; predorsal length (Pre D), from the anterior tip of the head to the anterior insertion of the dorsal fin; pelvic length (Pelv L), from the anterior tip of the head to the anterior edge of the pelvic fin; and preanal length (Pre A), from the anterior tip of the head to the anterior edge of the anus. The specimen was fixed in 10% formaldehyde solution, then preserved in 70% ethanol, and deposited in the ichthyological collection of the Marine Science Centre, University of Basrah, Iraq (Cat. No. MRSCI00012).
2 Results
The specimen of N. steatiticus with 385 mm standard length is identical to the general description of this species given by Nielsen (1995) (Table 1, Figure 1).



Figure 1 The specimen of Neobythites steatiticus (370 mm Total length) caught the Marine Waters of Iraq


Table 1 Morphometric and meristic characters of Neobythites steatiticus collected from the Arabian Gulf coasts of Iraq (TL: Total Length; HL: Head Length; SL: Standard Length)
Morphometric characters
Present study
Nielsen, 2002
Additional specimens from Nielsen, 2002
n = 10
Total length (mm)
Standard length (% in TL)
385.0 (95.1)
Head length (% in SL)
83.0 (21.6)
Orbit diameter (% in SL)
18.0 (4.7)
Predorsal length (% in SL)
Pelvic length (% in SL)
59.0 (15.3)
Preanal length (% in SL)
163.0 (42.3)
Meristic characters
Dorsal fin rays
Anal fin rays
Pectoral fin rays
Pseudobranchial filaments
Long rakers on anterior gill arch
Caudal fin ray
It is characterised by the following set of characters: teeth are granular to needle-like with vomer tooth bended in shape; dorsal fin is distinguished with the presence of ocellus located posterior to anus; anal fin is black at the middle with white strip at both distal and proximal ends; there are 3-4 faint broad dark vertical bars indistinct on body.
The other characters include: body robust with large and heavy head. Snout bluntly pointed, equal in length to eye and extends over the mouth. Eyes are large with orbital folds. Large nostrils, the anterior is a small tube near the tipoff the snout, the posterior with large foramen. Posterior margin of preopercle without spines. Mouth is large with maxillary extending behind the posterior border of the orbit. There are 1-3 short rakers on the anterior gill arch and 2-4 long rakers on upper branch, one long raker in angle. The lower branch has 7-9 long, 6-9 short rakers and 2-4 long pseudobranchial filaments. Head, body, base of dorsal and pectoral fins covered with small scales. Ventral fin nearly reaches base to anal fin. Lateral line indistinct. Pectoral fins with large fleshy scaly base reach vertical at anal fin origin.
3 Discussion
The standard length of individual reported in the present study (385 mm) is larger than the type specimen obtained from Bay of Bengal by Alcock (1894)(129 mm), and in later studies (Nielsen, 1995, 2002; Uiblein and Nielsen, 2005).However the meristic characters fall within the range given by Nielsen (2002). Our specimen is the largest ever recorded individual of this species.
The marine environment of the north part of the Arabian Gulf and the environment of the Iraqi marine waters in particular is different from that in the remaining parts of the Gulf (Al-Yamani et al., 2004). Iraqi marine waters, where individual reported here was caught, are characterised by freshwater flux from two main sources, the Shat al-Arab River in the north east and oligihaline waters from the greater marsh area at the northwest through Khor al-Zubair, a north western extension of the Arabian Gulf. Freshwater inflow heavily decrease salinity of marine waters of Iraq (4 ‰-39 ‰) (Al-Mehdi et al., 2009) and is source of nutrients and particulate organic matter increasing productivity of the northwestern Arabian Gulf (Hussain and Ahmed, 1999).
The environment of the remaining parts of the gulf has a shallow depth and restricted water exchange, it is the characterized by extreme sea-surface temperatures (Riegl, 2001; Sheppard and Loughland, 2002), hyper-saline conditions occur year-round (Reynolds, 1993) and a moderate to low primary production found within the southern part of the gulf (Nezlin et al., 2007).
Such strong environmental gradient along the Arabian Gulf may restrict distribution of certain species that unable to adapt to wide range of salinity and temperatures. Until now the species in question is reported from the southern part of the Gulf only (Nielsen, 1995) a habitat that is very different from that of the northern part of the Arabian Gulf. The present record of Nsteatiticus from the Iraqi marine waters indicating a significant range extension of its previously known distribution.
We would like to thank Marine Science Centre, Basrah University for giving us the opportunity to study and publish on the presence of this species.
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