Back in August, I wrote an article all about President Barack Obama’s amazing work in ocean conservation. In case you missed it, ( click here) the Obama administration along with the help of the National Park Service, and other conservationists named 583,000 square miles a “no take” zone off the coast of the Hawaiian Islands. By doing so, the Obama administration has quadrupled the previous national marine reserve of the waters off the coast of Northwestern Hawaii. This alone is an amazing accomplishment let alone in compared to the previous reserve. In 2006, just 139,800 square miles of the ocean within this region was protected, but now as of August 2016, 582,600 square miles of ocean waters are protected. This reserve is not only the largest protected area of ocean water but also of land on earth. Words cannot describe the positive impact that this protection will have on the diverse, important, and threatened organisms that call these waters home.
Thus it is incredibly appropriate and well deserved that Obama have a new species of fish, found off the coast of Hawaii, named after him. The news broke today, December 21, 2016, as scientists from the Bishop Museum, NOAA, and the Association for Marine Exploration officially published a description of a coral reef fish named in honor of Obama.
Newest Hawaiian fish species
Meet Tosanoides obama, a newly described reef fish species named of course to honor U.S. president Barack Obama as his time in the white house comes to an end. Obama, as mentioned above, has done such amazing work for the environment during his presidency and it fits that a new species that dwells in the waters he helped protect, be named after him.
This petite pink and yellow anthias fish (see above) is just the third officially described species of the genus Tosanoides. It differs from the other two current species by males having a prominent spot in the soft portion of the dorsal fin near the tail. This spot can be described as blue around the edges and red with yellow stripes in the center. Interestingly enough, this prominent feature is only observed in living specimens and is not nearly as clear in the freshly preserved specimens observed.
The new species is a kind of basslet, which is a group that includes many popular and colorful fish in the marine aquarium trade. “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). Our research has documented the highest rate of fish endemism in the world — 100% — living on the deep reefs where we found this new species,” said NOAA scientist Randall Kosaki, chief scientist of the research cruise, and co-author of the discovery. However, in addition to being like all the other Hawaiian endemic species, which also occur in the main Hawaiian Islands, this new species is unlike the other endemic species noted because it is the only species that is completely limited to just the Monument itself.
Tosanoides obama was discovered by Dr. Pyle and Dr. Greene two well-known exotic and deep reef fish experts. The two were twilight reef diving at a depth of about 300 feet in a June 2016 NOAA expedition to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, and surveying the deep reefs of the remote stretches of the northwestern Hawaiian Islands called Kure Atoll. The new species is described in the latest volume of the open-access scientific journal ZooKeys.
“We decided to name this fish after President Obama to recognize his efforts to protect and preserve the natural environment, including the expansion of Papahānaumokuākea,” said Richard Pyle, Bishop Museum scientist and lead author of the study. He adds, “This expansion adds a layer of protection to one of the last great wilderness areas on Earth.” The Bishop Museum where Pyle’s studies reside is currently showcasing an exhibit called Journeys: Heritage of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, appropriately featuring the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and the Monument.