New species of butterflyfish in the deep reefs of now Earth’s largest protected area Papahānaumokuākea

In the midst of the ongoing IUCN World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, scientists from Bishop Museum and NOAA published a description of a new species of butterflyfish from deep reefs of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which was recently expanded by President Barack Obama to become world’s largest protected area. The study is published in the open-access scientific journal ZooKeys.

“Butterflyfish are among the most conspicuous fishes on the reefs,” said Richard Pyle, Bishop Museum researcher and first author on the publication. “They are colorful, beautiful, and have been well-studied worldwide. Thus, finding a new species of butterflyfish is a rare event.”

RPyleCollectingHolotypeP.basabei
Author Dr Richard Pyle collecting an individual of the new butterflyfish P. basabei

Coral reefs at depths of 100 to 500 feet, also known as mesophotic coral ecosystems or the coral-reef “twilight zone,” are among the most poorly explored of all marine ecosystems. Deeper than scuba divers can safely venture, and shallower than most submersible-based exploration, these reefs represent a new frontier for coral-reef research.

“Discoveries such as this underscore how poorly explored our deep coral reefs are,” said Randall Kosaki, NOAA scientist and co-author of the study. “Virtually every deep dive reveals a reef that no human being has ever laid eyes on.” Pyle and Kosaki have pioneered the use of advanced mixed-gas diving systems known as rebreathers (because they recycle the diver’s breathing gas). Rebreathers allow deeper and longer dives, enabling new opportunities for exploring and documenting deep coral reef habitats throughout the world’s tropical seas.

The new butterflyfish was first seen in submersible video over twenty years ago, at depths exceeding 600 feet. At the time, Pyle and University of Hawai‘i marine biologist E.H. “Deetsie” Chave recognized it as a potential new species. However, because of the extreme depths, it was years before technical divers using rebreather technology were able to collect specimens for proper scientific documentation.  

Using this technology, NOAA and Museum researchers have encountered the new butterflyfish regularly during deep exploratory dives up to 330 feet on NOAA expeditions to the Monument, where the specimens for the scientific description were collected

The new fish, Prognathodes basabei, is named after Pete Basabe, a veteran local diver from Kona, Hawai‘i who, over the years, has assisted with the collection of reef fishes for numerous scientific studies and educational displays. Basabe, an experienced deep diver himself, was instrumental in providing support for the dives that produced the first specimen of the fish that now bears his name.

 

The Holotype, the Author, the Publisher Author Dr Richard Pyle (left) with Pensoft's and ZooKeys' founder Prof Lyubomir Penev (right) with the new butterflyfish P. basabei
The Holotype, the Author, the Publisher
Author Dr Richard Pyle (left) and Pensoft’s and ZooKeys’ founder Prof Lyubomir Penev (right) with the new butterflyfish P. basabei

At the urging of Native Hawaiian leaders, conservationists, and many marine scientists, President Obama recently expanded the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. At 582,578 square miles, Papahānaumokuākea is now the largest protected area on Earth.

“This new discovery illustrates the conservation value of very large marine protected areas,” said Kosaki. “Not only do they protect the biodiversity that we already know about, they also protect the diversity we’ve yet to discover. And there’s a lot left to discover.”

 

Original source:
Pyle RL, Kosaki RK (2016) Prognathodes basabei, a new species of butterflyfish (Perciformes, Chaetodontidae) from the Hawaiian Archipelago. ZooKeys 614: 137-152. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.614.10200

‘Hidden fish’ genus described for 2 new weakly electric mormyrid species from Gabon

A new weakly electric mormyrid fish genus of two new species has been described from only three specimens collected over a period of 13 years in the rivers of the Central African country of Gabon. The genus has been named Cryptomyrus, meaning ‘hidden fish’ in Greek, and is the first new genus to be described within the family Mormyridae since 1977.

The study, authored by Dr. John Sullivan and Prof. Carl Hopkins of Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, and Sebastien Lavoue of the Institute of Oceanography at the National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan, is published in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

“It’s odd we have only three specimens, given how much fish collection effort there’s been in Gabon over the past years,” says lead author Dr. John Sullivan. “Not having more made the descriptions difficult, but it was important to bring this discovery to light without further delay.” Sullivan added that he does not know if these fish are rare throughout their range or if specialists simply have not sampled localities or habitats where they are common, yet. “It shows that we still have a very incomplete picture of fish diversity in Gabon,” says Dr. Sullivan.

The last of the three specimens was found on an expedition to Gabon’s Ogooue River in September 2014, jointly sponsored by CENAREST and The Nature Conservancy. It was after nightfall on the Ogooue, beside Doume Falls, when Sullivan and the other team members caught the one odd fish in a plastic fish trap baited with earthworms. Reflecting its river of origin, the species now bares the name Cryptomyrus ogoouensis, while the second – Cryptomyrus ona, is named after Gabonese environmental activist Marc Ona Essangui.

Puzzled over the identity of the fish, back home at the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates Dr. Sullivan remembered two somewhat similar specimens collected in Gabon and sent to him for identification by his colleagues Sebastien Lavoue and Yves Fermon, 11 years apart. “This is why we need natural history collections,” said Dr. Sullivan, “to keep these specimens and their DNA samples in good condition, because it can take years or even decades to connect the dots.”

Analyses of the DNA from the three specimens conducted at Cornell University showed they were close relatives and did not belong within any recognized genus. “That left us no choice but to describe them as a new genus, and Cryptomyrus, which means “hidden fish,” seemed an appropriate name given how hard they are to find,” said Dr. Sullivan.

Over 200 species of mormyrid fish live in fresh waters across Africa where they orient to their environment and communicate using electric pulses, too weak to be felt by humans, in combination with highly sensitive electroreceptor cells embedded in their skin.

The Nature Conservancy, a global conservation organization that works in more than 35 countries around the world, funded the 2014 expedition of the Ogooue. “We were thrilled to have contributed to this discovery,” said Marie-Claire Paiz, Gabon Program Director for The Nature Conservancy. “Our goal is to help Gabon acquire better baseline knowledge about the state of their fish and rivers which will enable them make science-guided choices about where and how to use their resources wisely for both people and nature.”

“The Nature Conservancy deserves a lot of credit,” commented Sullivan. “It’s a great example of how a conservation organization can promote the discovery of biodiversity by partnering with taxonomists and natural history museums.”

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Original Source:

Citation: Sullivan JP, Lavoue S, Hopkins CD (2016) Cryptomyrus: a new genus of Mormyridae (Teleostei, Osteoglossomorpha) with two new species from Gabon, West-Central Africa.ZooKeys 561: 117-150. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.561.7137