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Is 80-year-old mistake leading to first species to be fished to extinction?
Date:11/17/2009

A species of common skate is to become the first marine fish species to be driven to extinction by commercial fishing, due to an error of species classification 80 years ago, reveals research published today in the journal Aquatic Conservation.

The European common skate, Dipturus batis, has been on the World Conservation Union's Red List of Threatened Species since 2006, with France currently being responsible for 60.2% of reported landings. These catches are predominantly registered under the name 'D.batis,' however researchers, led by Dr Samuel Iglsias, show that 'D. batis' is in fact two clearly distinct species which have been incorrectly categorised as one since the 1920s.

From the mid-19th century the common skate was described as two distinct species, the flapper skate, D. intermedia, and the blue skate, D. flossada. However, in an influential work in 1926 R.S Clark recognised only 'D. batis' as a valid species and this classification has largely gone unchallenged since.

This classification confusion has resulted in the depletion of the flapper skate, the more endangered species of the two, being masked in the catch record. This means the risk of extinction is far higher than previously assessed and without immediate and incisive action the species may be in an irreversible decline towards extinction.

When conducting sampling in fish markets during the start of this study Dr Iglsias observed noticeable morphological differences in the 'Dipturus batis' specimens he sampled. In order to understand these differences the researchers not only analysed the systematic molecular data but also reviewed the species' life history and analysed fishery statistics.

"As the species was listed as 'Critically endangered' I wanted to understand who's who? I estimated at the beginning that it would take some weeks to resolve this question, but in the end it took me abo
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Contact: Ben Norman
Benorman@wiley.com
44-124-377-0375
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

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