After a trapdoor spider, a speckled freshwater darter (fish), a parasitic hairworm and an extinct lizard, outgoing US President Barack Obama now has a new species on his name: a coral-reef fish. Scientists have named a new set of small pink and yellow coral-reef fish — found exclusively within the marine protected area in Hawaii — in honour of Obama. The fish now bears the formal scientific name “Tosanoides obama”.
President Obama also has several species from other locales named after him: a trapdoor spider, a speckled freshwater darter , a parasitic hairworm and an extinct lizard.
The fish was discovered during a June 2016 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expedition to Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Hawaiian Islands.
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On August 26, at the urging of the Hawaii Democrat Senator Brian Schatz, and various conservationists and marine scientists, President Obama had expanded the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.
At 582,578 square miles, it is the largest permanent marine protected area on Earth.
“We decided to name this fish after President Obama to recognise his efforts to protect and preserve the natural habitat, including its expansion,” said lead author Richard Pyle, Bishop Museum scientist.
“The expansion of Papahanaumokuakea adds a layer of protection to one of the last great wilderness areas on Earth,” Pyle added.
Male obamas have a distinctive spot on the dorsal fin near the tail, which is blue around the edge and red with yellow stripes in the centre.
“It is reminiscent of President Obama’s campaign logo so seemed especially appropriate for the fish to be named in honour of the President,” Pyle said.
The new species was first discovered and collected on a dive to 300 feet at Kure Atoll, 1200 miles northwest of Honolulu.
It is special because it is the only known species of coral-reef fish endemic to the Monument.
On September 1, during his trip to Midway Atoll within the Monument, legendary scientist, conservationist and deep ocean explorer Sylvia Earle presented the President a photograph of the fish.
The study was published in the open-access scientific journal ZooKeys.