Scientists have discovered a new species of butterflyfish from the deep reefs of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Tuesday.
The Bishop Museum and NOAA recently published a description in the scientific journal ZooKeys about the new species, Prognathodes basabei, which exist in coral reefs at depths of up to 500 feet – or what’s known as mesophotic coral ecosystems or “the coral-reef twilight zone.”
“Butterflyfish are the glamour fish of the coral reefs,” said Richard Pyle, Bishop Museum scientist and lead author on the publication. “They are colorful, beautiful and have been very well-studied worldwide. Finding a new species of butterflyfish is a rare event.”
This particular species was first observed in video from manned submersibles more than 20 years ago, but because of the extreme depths of the coral reefs, it wasn’t until recently that proper technology would allow scientists to properly study and document the species.
The new fish -- named after Pete Basabe, a veteran diver from Kona who was instrumental in the study – are now on display at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu and the Mokupapapa Discovery Center in Hilo. An additional specimen is also on display at the Waikiki Aquarium.
“This new discovery illustrates the conservation value of very large marine protected areas,” said Randall Kosaki, NOAA scientist and co-author of the study. “Not only do they protect the biodiversity that we already know about, they also protect the diversity we’ve yet to discover. And there’s a lot left to discover.”