Marine Biodiversity

, Volume 49, Issue 6, pp 2521–2534 | Cite as

Species identification and cryptic diversity in Pampus species as inferred from morphological and molecular characteristics

  • Yuan Li
  • Yongdong Zhou
  • Pengfei Li
  • Tianxiang GaoEmail author
  • Longshan LinEmail author
Original Paper


Pomfret, which are widely distributed throughout the western Pacific and Indian Oceans, are economically important fish species. As their similar external morphological characteristics can inhibit proper species identification, numerous errors exist in the morphological characterization and DNA barcoding data of pomfret. In this study, we extensively sampled pomfret from the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Using the sampled specimens, in combination with morphological assessments, DNA barcoding, and corrected sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase I (COI) gene in GenBank, we attempted to resolve the classification issues surrounding this group. We identified seven valid species in the genus Pampus, of which all seven are distributed in the western Pacific and three are distributed in the Indian Ocean. Pampus argenteus, Pampus cinereus, and Pampus sp. were identified as three valid species with relatively close genetic distances and sharing a common ancestor. Significant variation between Pampus chinensis specimens from the Arabian Sea and the northwestern Pacific suggest a possible species complex. Finally, we provide an identification key to facilitate the identification of pomfret based on the major diagnostic morphological characteristics of six Pampus species collected along the western Pacific coast. On the basis of the reports on the new record of “Pampus argenteus,” we found that the Lessepsian migration of pomfret was likely, with species from the Indian and Pacific Oceans spreading through the Mediterranean Sea into the waters of the eastern Atlantic. Further study is required to clarify the validity of the newly recorded “Pampus argenteus.”


DNA barcoding Phylogenetic analysis Species diversity Stromateidae Synonymous species 



The present study could not have been performed without assistance from Dr. Karhoe Loh, Dr. Takashi Yanagimoto, Prof. Weizhong Chen, Prof. Dianrong Sun, and Mr. Long Li in the Pampus specimen collection.


The study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant number 41776171), the National Programme on Global Change and Air-Sea Interaction (grant number GASI-02-SCS-YDsum/spr/aut and GASI-02-PAC-YDsum/aut), the Bilateral Cooperation of Maritime Affairs (grant number 2200207), the International Science & Technology Cooperation Program of China (grant number 2015DFR30450), the Public Science and Technology Research Funds Projects of Ocean (grant number 201505025), and the Scientific Research Foundation of Third Institute of Oceanography, State Oceanic Administration (grant number 2016010).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed by the authors.

Sampling and field studies

All necessary permits for sampling and observational field studies have been obtained by the authors from the competent authorities.

Data availability

All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article and its supplementary information files.

Supplementary material

12526_2019_976_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (2.8 mb)
Supplementary Figure 1 (PDF 2892 kb)


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Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Third Institute of OceanographyMinistry of Natural ResourcesXiamenChina
  2. 2.National Engineering Research Center for Marine AquacultureZhejiang Ocean UniversityZhoushanChina
  3. 3.Fishery CollegeZhejiang Ocean UniversityZhoushanChina

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