The status and importance of cephalopod systematics in southern Africa

  • MAC Roeleveld


A checklist of southern African cephalopods published in 1974 listed 94 species for the region 20–45°S, 10–40°E. Just 23 years later the number of known species has doubled to an estimated 195, represented in the
South African Museum collection by 4 252 accessioned lots (15 434 specimens, excluding many paralarvae). In 1995, cephalopods constituted the sixth most valuable fisheries resource worldwide (after shrimps and tunas). Only one subspecies, Loligo vulgaris reynaudii, is targeted in South Africa at present, but it is important commercially because of the high prices it commands internationally. A number of other species constitute alternate resources of potential commercial interest, including at least 12 sepiids, 7 loliginids, 6 ommastrephids and 9 octopods. Cephalopods are also important in the trophic relations of marine fish, birds and mammals. Knowledge of the southern African cephalopod fauna is important not only for regional biodiversity studies but also from a wider perspective. The region is strategically placed between the Atlantic, Indian and Southern oceans and the faunal composition is complex. The southern African cephalopods include about 20–30% of the known world cephalopod species. Resolution of taxonomic problems in the southern African context goes a long way towards global resolution, particularly among the oceanic species. The size and complexity of the South African Museum’s
cephalopod collection prompted the holding of a systematics workshop to produce a guide to southern African cephalopods. This paper provided a basis for that Biodiversity Workshop. A provisional checklist for the region is provided, species constituting a potential resource for either artisanal or larger fisheries are identified and unresolved problems in the systematics (including an undescribed genus and at least 12, but probably more than 20, new species) are indicated.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1814-2338
print ISSN: 1814-232X