Potentially new species found on excursion to Northwestern Hawai - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Potentially new species found on excursion to Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

Potentially new species found on excursion to Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Potentially new species found on excursion to Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
PEARL HARBOR (HawaiiNewsNow) -

It may take scientists months before they know exactly what they found on their most recent expedition to the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

That’s because many of the specimens they brought back may be entirely new species.

"Several new species of fish, probably a new species of seahorse, several probable new species of algae, seastars" said Dr. Randy Kosaki, Chief Scientist at PMNM.

The research took place over 27 days, with 20 scientists aboard the research vessel Hi’ialakai.  The areas they were diving to were deep sea mounts some 200-300 feet below the surface.

"Literally we have better maps of the moon than the ocean.  So these are completely unexplored, no one's ever dived on them before" said Kosaki.

Getting that deep isn't easy---regular SCUBA gear won't work.  Instead, the divers used specialized equipment that weighs around 150 pounds.

"It’s very advanced and sophisticated technology that allows us to dive deep and stay at depths for long time" said Research Specialist Daniel Wagner.

Once down there, they saw reefs teeming with life.

"Stunning things, and the thing you notice first is just the amount of big fish.  Apex predators.  Big sharks, big ulua" said Wagner.

And all those potential new species.  The expedition may be over, but in many ways, the work has just begun.

"Now it's going to be a lot of long hours in museum collections, collecting DNA, genetic analyses to confirm these are new species, distinct from any known species" said Kosaki.

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