At the end of June, my PhD student Bill Ludt and I went to Okinawa for the 9th Indo-Pacific Fish Conference (IPFC), and then traveled to Tokyo to do a market survey and collection at the famous Tsukiji Market. The IPFC is held every 4 years and it is a mix of an ichthyology and evolution conferences that is important for everyone working on fishes in the region. This year’s conference was particularly important for me because it included a Percomorph Symposium that dealt with higher-level fish systematics and included a series of well-known and well-respected speakers (obviously I wasn’t invited to speak), and it was one of the most important single days in systematic ichthyology signaling in a paradigm shift in our discipline.
|Bill Ludt:Tuna Hunter|
Okinawa is at the southern reaches of Japan, closer to Taipei, Taiwan than to Tokyo and with a rich history of its own. (It may be fighting for its independence as a sovereign nation in the near future.) The conference center was a few steps from a beach and a crystal clear blue ocean, but there was little time to enjoy it. The talks were fantastic and groundbreaking with lots of new systematic efforts highlighting new molecular techniques. The next generation of sequencing is here and I was very excited to talk about ultraconserved elements and our project on using massively parallel sequencing to resolve the basal relationships of Ostariophysi (a group of 10,000 species that includes catfishes, electric knifefishes, tetras, piranhas, goldfish, and over 70% of freshwater fishes; this lineage alone represents 1 in every 6 species of vertebrate). After a few years of giving talks about projects I had just recently published I loved talking about something so fresh that I didn’t have results to talk about until a week before we were set to leave. Bill on the other hand was much better prepared and he gave an excellent talk on Prionurus, a group of surgeonfishes (so named because of razor sharp barbs near their tail). This genus of seven species are distributed in cold waters in disjunct areas that are essentially anti-tropical. Bill presented a dated phylogeny that helped explain their evolutionary history and unusual distribution. Directly following his talk several very well known scientists approached him and I was proud of him as he began making a name for himself in the fish world.
|Bluefin tuna auction.|