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First confirmed presence of the Red Sea goatfish Parupeneus forsskali (Fourmanoir & Guézé, 1976) from Cyprus



Cyprus is affected by the invasion of non-indigenous ‘lessepsian’ species due to its proximity to the Suez Canal. Thus, recent ongoing studies in the marine area of Cyprus reveal new records of such Erythrean species.


The first confirmed presence of the Red Sea goatfish Parupeneus forsskali in the coastal waters of Cyprus is reported. Description of the specimen, together with some distributional notes of the species in the Mediterranean are provided.


This record of P. forsskali from Cyprus, together with the previous occurrences in Israel, Lebanon and Turkey supports further the establishment of a population in the eastern Mediterranean.


Cyprus, less than 400 nm from the Suez Canal (Fig. 1), is affected by the invasion of non- indigenous ‘lessepsian’ species. Michailidis (2010) estimated that ‘lessepsian’ fish constitute up to 10 % of the biomass of the local annual artisanal landings.

Fig. 1
figure 1

Map of the Levantine Basin (Eastern Mediterranean) indicating the location that P. forsskali was caught (black dot)

Until recently, only four species of goatfish have been identified in Cyprus: the indigenous Mullus barbatus barbatus Linnaeus, 1758 and M. surmuletus Linnaeus, 1758 and the lessepsians Upeneus moluccensis (Bleeker, 1855), recorded for the first time in 1961 by Demetropoulos and Neocleous (1969) and U. pori Ben-Tuvia and Golani, 1989, recorded for the first time in 2004 by Tzomos et al. (2007). Iglésias and Frotté (2015) reported the presence of Parupeneus forsskali (Fourmanoir & Guézé, 1976) in Cyprus, but the record was based on an assertion of a fishmonger who photographed a single individual with a smartphone, and the photograph was not recovered. Therefore, the identification of the species was based only on retained diagnostic characters.

Here we report the first confirmed presence of the mullid P. forsskali in Cyprus, expanding further its known distribution in the Eastern Mediterranean.


On August 20, 2014, a specimen of the Red Sea goatfish, P. forsskali was caught on a 36 mm inner mesh size opening trammel net, by the artisanal boat “Granitis”, in the area of Cape Pyla, Cyprus (34.9398°N 33.8584°E) (Fig. 1). The net was set at a depth of 24 m, over mixed bottom (mainly rocky substrate and Posidonia oceanica). The total catch consisted mostly of parrotfishes, Sparisoma cretense (Linnaeus, 1758) and surmullets, M. surmuletus. The specimen was hastily photographed using a low resolution camera and stored in a freezer for a ten-month period before being received by the authors. When examined, the specimen was in bad condition and significantly discoloured (Fig. 2), but still presented sufficient attributable characteristics so as to make the species identifiable and allow for important basic measurements. The morphometric measurements were taken using a digital caliper. The specimen was deposited in the Department of Biological Sciences (University of Cyprus) collections, in 90 % ethanol solution.

Fig. 2
figure 2

The specimen of Parupeneus forsskali from Cape Pyla, Cyprus – scale bar 2 cm (Photo: N. Michailidis)

It is noteworthy to report that according to the fisherman who provided our specimen, another individual of the same species of a bigger size, was caught by him a month later (September 2014), at the same depth, area, bottom type and on the same gear. Unfortunately, the specimen was sold along with surmullets.


The specimen did not differ from earlier descriptions (Al-Absy 1988; Ben-Tuvia and Kissil 1988; Khalaf and Disi 1997; Çinar et al. 2006; Sonin et al. 2013 and Bariche et al. 2013a). The total weight of the fish is 48 g (defrosted). Meristic counts are the following: two dorsal fins, the first with eight spines and the second with six rays (D1, VIII; D2, 6); anal fin with seven rays (A, 7); pectoral fin with 15 rays (P, 15) and ventral fin with one spine and five rays (V, I + 5); 28 lateral line scales (LL, 28); seven rakers on upper and 20 on lower gill limbs (GR, 7 + 20). All morphometric measurements are shown in Table 1. One row of teeth is present on each jaw, with canine teeth only on the upper jaw. The specimen has the typical dark longitudinal stripe from the snout, through the eye, proceeding to below the end of the second dorsal fin base and a dark spot on the upper caudal peduncle (Fig. 2). Like other specimens collected from the Mediterranean (e.g., Sonin et al. 2013), the specimen from Cyprus has a pinkish rather than a white background (the same was also noticed from the photograph of the fresh specimen). The first dorsal, pectoral and ventral fins also have a pink colour while the second dorsal, anal and caudal fins are rather yellowish.

Table 1 Morphometric measurements of the specimen of Parupeneus forsskali from Cape Pyla, Cyprus


The record of P. forsskali from Cyprus supports further the establishment of a population in the eastern Mediterranean and expands its known distribution in the basin. The depth at which this specimen was collected (24 m) falls in the general depth distribution of the species (1–30 m) in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (Randall and Heemstra 2009). Furthermore, the presence of P. forsskali in Cyprus supports the view of Bariche et al. (2013a) that this species is probably overlooked in the Levantine Basin, due to its sporadic occurrences in Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and now similarly from Cyprus. In the Mediterranean, P. forsskali was first observed in Mersin, Turkey in 2000, while in 2004 an individual was photographed in the same area at a depth of 15 m (Çinar et al. 2006). Confirmed records of the species were only provided very recently by Bariche et al. (2013a) from Lebanon at a depth of 40 m and Sonin et al. (2013) from Israel at a depth of 45 m, thus expanding the depth distribution of the species in the Mediterranean.

Concerning Cyprus, there are only a few studies which record the presence of lessepsian migrants in the island. Among the most recent, Katsanevakis et al. (2009) documented 25 lessepsian fish species, excluding the questionable record of the chondrichthyan Himantura uarnak. Ioannou et al. (2010); Michailidis (2010); Bariche et al. (2013b) recorded Scarus ghobban Forsskål, 1775, Torquigener flavimaculosus Hardy & Randall, 1983 and Pterois miles (Bennett, 1828), respectively. A recent study concerning alien marine fish in Cyprus, conducted by Iglésias and Frotté (2015), reported 7 new lessepsian fish species. Finally, Crocetta et al. (2015) recorded Cheilodipterus novemstriatus (Rüppell, 1838), raising the number of lessepsian fish species in Cyprus to 36. Considering that the total number of lessepsian fish species recorded in the Mediterranean has been reported at 97 species (Fricke et al. 2015), the recorded number for Cyprus is low compared with neighbouring countries (e.g., Por 1978; Tzomos et al. 2007; Katsanevakis et al. 2009; Nunes et al. 2014). We believe that this is due to the lack of targeted sampling effort as well as Cyprus’ position and hydrographic conditions prevailing in the area, mainly the predominant water circulation (Gerin et al. 2009; Bergamasco and Malanotte-Rizzoli 2010).

As is the case for most goatfishes, P. forsskali is a species economically exploited in its native region (Sabrah 2015; Bariche et al. 2013a). It remains to be seen whether this species will manage to reach high abundances and become a commercial species in the area as in the case of the other two lessepsian mullids, U. moluccensis and U. pori which constitute a notable addition to the local fish market.


The record of P. forsskali from Cyprus supports further the establishment of a population in the eastern Mediterranean and expands its known distribution in the basin. Furthermore, the confirmed presence of P. forsskali in Cyprus supports the view that this species is probably overlooked in the Levantine Basin, due to its sporadic occurrences in Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and now from Cyprus.


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The authors are grateful to the professional fisherman Mr. Floros Kallitsionis for providing the specimen and the related information given in the manuscript. Moreover, we thank the two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments that helped us improve our manuscript.


This research received no specific grant from any funding agency, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Availability of data and material

The material described in the manuscript is freely available to any scientist wishing to use it, without breaching participant confidentiality. The sample is deposited in the Department of Biological Sciences (University of Cyprus) collections, in 90 % ethanol solution.

Authors’ contributions

The fisherman took the sample to NM who has identified it to species level. Both authors contributed to draft the manuscript and they read and approved the final manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Correspondence to Niki Chartosia.

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Chartosia, N., Michailidis, N. First confirmed presence of the Red Sea goatfish Parupeneus forsskali (Fourmanoir & Guézé, 1976) from Cyprus. Mar Biodivers Rec 9, 33 (2016).

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  • Parupeneus forsskali
  • Mullidae
  • Lessepsian migrants
  • Eastern Mediterranean
  • Cyprus