New fish species discovered on our doorstep

A team of Australasian scientists have returned from an expedition to the remote Kermedec Islands having discovered at least three new species of fish.

Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

The team, which included scientists from Auckland Museum, Te Papa, Department of Conservation, Australian Museum and NIWA spent three weeks observing and collecting specimens to create a record of species diversity in the Kermadecs.

My old Herald colleague Richard Robinson, an excellent photographer who has become a specialist in underwater photography, was also onboard, as was Radio New Zealand science reporter Alison Ballance. So you can expect some great photos of the expedition to pop up in the media and a few specials on the expedition on the Our Changing World show on Radio New Zealand.

Auckland Museum has been running great coverage of the expedition on its blog, with video, photos and blog commentary. It will be a year before the scientists write up their findings from the trip, but already it seems clear they have added to our knowledge of the fish species that inhabit New Zealand waters.

Three new additions

Initial reports from the scientists suggest three fish species “new to science” were discovered on the voyage with 12 species of fish spotted that have never been recorded anywhere in New Zealand before. They also collected a further five species that are new records for the Kermadec Islands.

Bright orange Lotella cod:

Said marine researcher and expedition member Carl Struthers from Te Papa:

’I knew as soon as I saw it in the collecting net that it was something different — it really stood out. I’ve been doing a lot of work on that group of fishes, and I’ve never seen any other Morids from New Zealand that are such a brilliant reddy-orange.’

Orange Lotella cod is among the three new species finds for the Kermadecs expedition CREDIT: Carl Struther
Orange Lotella cod is among the three new species finds for the Kermadecs expedition CREDIT: Carl Struther

Other possible new species include a small pipefish:

a pipefish found by the Kermadecs expedition team could be a new record for science but until it’s official it has been nicknamed the ’orange-spot pipefish’. CREDIT: C. Struthers

Also discovered – a small left-eyed flounder.

Samples of the fish have been sent to international experts for identification. The fish will also be x-rayed so that bone structure can be examined in detail.

The expedition photo gallery has some great images.

How many species are there?

In an age where we hear a lot about species moving closer to extinction, it is great to hear reports of new species being discovered. So far, scientists have described around 1.7 million species of plants and animals (5490 of which are mammals).That alsoincludes around 31,000 species of fish.

How many more there are on Earth is very difficult to tell but one thing is for sure – many of the new additions to the list will be found in the oceans, particularly in hard to reach places and around hydrothermal vents on the sea floor.

Source: Current Results. Table does not include domestic animals or single-cell organisms
Source: Current Results. Table does not include domestic animals like sheep and goats or single-cell organisms

One Comment

  1. David Winter

    How many more [species] there are on Earth is very difficult to tell

    There’s a long history of trying to extrapolate this from the number undescribed beetle species you can find by gassing a tree in the amazon or PNG rainforests – since beetles make up about a quarter of all described species(!). Estimates vary, but they’re between 5 and 30 million species.

    But there are probably other biases in what we’ve already described that would bump that number up. Your average shovel fill of soil likely has ‘new’ species of nematodes, fungi and bacteria.

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