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 was discovered during an expedition in June this year to Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
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 fish now bears the formal scientific name “Tosanoides obama”. “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 Administrations Bishop Museum. “This expansion adds a layer of protection to one of the last great wilderness areas on Earth.”
President Obama has several species from other locals named after him; a trapdoor spider, a speckled freshwater darter, a parasitic hairworm and an extinct lizard.
On August 26, at the urging of the Hawaii Democrat Senator Brian Schatz, and various conservationists and marine scientists, President Obama has expanded the Papahanaumokuakea Marine national Monument. At 582578 square miles, it is the largest permanent marine protected area on Earth.
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.
“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],” said co-author Randall Kosaki, who is NOAA’s deputy superintendent of Papahānaumokuākea, in a statement. “Our research has documented the highest rate of fish endemism in the world – 100 percent – living on the deep reefs where we found this new species.”
“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.
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.
“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.
In a study published Wednesday in the journal ZooKeys, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, and the Association for Marine Exploration named the fish Tosanoides obama.