|Photo by Barry Brown from original publication.|
Marine biodiversity inhabiting shallow Caribbean coral reefs has been studied for more than 150 years, but much less is known about what lives at depths just below those accessible with conventional SCUBA gear. Thanks to the availability of a privately owned, manned submersible on the island of Curacao, the Curasub, scientists are able to intensively study depths to 300 m.
Researchers from the Smithsonian Institution have yet described another new goby fish from the region. Its name means lizard in Latin and refers to the reptilian appearance of the fish. It has a disproportionately large head and multiple rows of canine teeth in each of its jaws. For that reason the common name will be Godzilla goby.
For the experts: We describe a new species of goby, Varicus lacerta sp. n., which was collected from a mesophotic reef at Curacao, southern Caribbean. The new species is the tenth species of Varicus, all of which occur below traditional SCUBA depths in the wider Caribbean area. Its placement in the genus Varicus is supported by a molecular phylogenetic analysis of three nuclear genes and the mitochondrial gene cytochrome b. In addition, the new species has one anal-fin pterygiophore inserted anterior to the first haemal spine, which distinguishes Varicus species from most species in the closely related and morphologically similar genus Psilotris. Varicus lacerta sp. n. is distinguished from all other named species of Varicus by the absence of scales, having highly branched, feather-like pelvic-fin rays, and in its live coloration. We provide the cytochrome c oxidase I DNA barcode of the holotype and compare color patterns of all species of Varicus and Psilotris for which color photographs or illustrations are available. This study is one of several recent studies demonstrating the utility of manned submersibles in exploring the diversity of poorly studied but species-rich deep-reef habitats.