A new species of small pink and yellow coral-reef fish discovered 300 feet deep in the waters off Kure Atoll in the Pacific ocean has been named after the US President Barack Obama. The fish, named Tosanoides obama, was discovered during an expedition in June this year to Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
“We decided to name this fish after President Obama to recognise his efforts to protect and preserve the natural environment, including the expansion of Papahanaumokuakea,” said Richard Pyle, scientist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Bishop Museum.
“This expansion adds a layer of protection to one of the last great wilderness areas on Earth,” said Pyle.
The small pink and yellow fish is a kind of basslet, a group that includes many colorful reef fishes popular in the marine aquarium fish trade.
There are two other species in the genus Tosanoides, both from the tropical northwestern Pacific Ocean.
Males of the new species have a distinctive spot on the dorsal fin near the tail, which is blue around the edge and red with yellow stripes in the center.
“The spot on the males is reminiscent of President Obama’s campaign logo. It seemed especially appropriate for a fish named in honor of the president,” said Pyle.”The new fish is special because it is the only known species of coral-reef fish endemic to the Monument – meaning that the species is found nowhere else on Earth,” he said.
“Our research has documented the highest rate of fish endemism in the world – 100 per cent – living on the deep reefs where we found this new species,” said NOAA scientist Randall Kosaki. However, unlike all the other Hawaiian endemic species, which also occur in the main Hawaiian Islands, this new species is special because it is the only one that is limited to within the Monument itself.
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“Endemic species are unique contributions to global biodiversity,” Kosaki said.”With the onslaught of climate change, we are at risk of losing some of these undiscovered species before we even know they exist,” he said.
The new fish was first discovered and collected on a dive to 300 feet at Kure Atoll, 1,931 kilometres northwest of Honolulu. Kure is the northernmost of the Hawaiian Islands, and is the highest latitude coral atoll in the world.
This is the second new species of fish from Papahanaumokuakea named this year. President Obama also has several species from other locales named after him: a trapdoor spider, a speckled freshwater darter (fish), a parasitic hairworm and an extinct lizard. The study was published in the journal ZooKeys.