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Revising geographic distributions of eastern Pacific moray eels

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Under the influence of climate stressors, species distributions of fishes in the eastern Pacific are shifting, with many species moving poleward. Moray eels (family Muraenidae) are ecologically important predators inhabiting coastal reefs. Due to their cryptic nature and lack of commercial importance, the species distributions of muraenids in the tropical and subtropical eastern Pacific are poorly understood. Here, we document the geographic range size of 33 muraenid species in the eastern Pacific and also report a shift in the established population range of Muraena argus based on recent trapping efforts. We found that 17 species demonstrated shifts in geographic range size, including sampled-range expansions and new occurrences at offshore islands. Eleven species were observed in new biogeographic provinces, primarily in the northward direction to the San Diegan Province. Trapping data and local knowledge gathered from fishing cooperatives suggest that M. argus has established populations at least 300 km further north than previously reported. Both the yearly number of reported observations and geographic extent of sampling have increased over time, but the number of recorded extensions has not. These results highlight the importance of compiling data from diverse sources (including museum records, local ecological knowledge, and the non- English scientific literature) as well as the continued value of biodiversity surveys in the eastern Pacific.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of California Santa Cruz, 130 McAllister Way, Santa Cruz, California 95060;, Email: [email protected] 2: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive La Jolla, California 92161;, Email: [email protected] 3: California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, California 94118 4: Marine Science Institute, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California 93117

Publication date: April 1, 2021

This article was made available online on February 24, 2021 as a Fast Track article with title: "Revising geographic distributions of eastern Pacific moray eels".

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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