Monday, September 12, 2016

A new butterfly fish: Prognathodes basabei

Credit: Greg McFall / NOAA
Butterfly fish are the glamour fish of the coral reefs. They are colorful, beautiful, and have been very well-studied worldwide. Finding a new species is a rare event. Deep coral reefs at depths of 150 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 most scuba divers can venture, and shallower than most submersible-based exploration, these reefs represent a new frontier for coral reef research and it was here where the new fish was first observed more than 20 years ago and caught for the first time just recently.

The new fish, Prognathodes basabei, is named after Pete Basabe, a veteran local diver from Kona 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.

For the experts: A new species of the butterflyfish genus Prognathodes is described from specimens collected at a depth of 55–61 m off Pearl and Hermes Atoll, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. This species has been observed by mixed-gas divers and from submersibles at depths ranging from 45–187 m throughout the Hawaiian Archipelago, with shallower sightings in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and deeper in the Main Hawaiian Islands. It is similar to P. guezei (Maug√© and Bauchot 1976) from the western Indian Ocean, and at least one other undescribed species of Prognathodes from Palau, differing from these species in the number of soft dorsal-fin rays, size of head, and body depth. There are also differences in the life color, and a substantial genetic difference from the Palauan species (d » .08 in mtDNA cytochrome oxidase I).

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