Systematics of Clupeidae (Pisces: Actinopterygii: Clupeiformes)

The order Clupeiformes is of crucial importance to world fisheries. Global capture production of Clupeiformes can reach 19 million tons a year, representing about 25% of the total annual catch of all fishes (marine and freshwater), which is far more than any other single systematic group of fishes. Thus Clupeiformes represent the largest order of non-domesticated vertebrates harvested by humans.

Clupeidae, the largest family of the order, comprises about 216 species and 66 genera, and is commonly divided into five subfamilies. Mediterranean Sea contains 12 Clupeidae species of which five are Red Sea invasive species that were introduced through the Suez Canal. In addition, the Red Sea contains 14 species of Clupeidae and the Black Sea contains another 12 species.

Classic morphology among clupeid rely mainly on small internal characters, such as details of the caudal fin skeleton and the characteristics of the swim bladder. Yet rapidly evolving mitochondrial DNA regions serve as very useful tools for molecular systematic studies, and are widely applied to systematics of fishes

My study aims (1) to genetically classify Mediterranean, Red and Black Sea Clupeidae, with as many representatives as possible, (2) to corroborate or contradict the correlation between classic morphological taxonomy and modern molecular systematics, and (3) to investigate the phylogenetic relationship between the indigenous and invasive Clupeidae species at the Levant Basin, based on the regional geological history.