New fish species discovered in the Caribbean

Posted by Athenkosi Matyalana on 19 June 2013

A team of  scientists with the Smithonsian Institute have discovered a new fish species at a deep reef off Curaçao. The scientists, who are part of the Deep Reef Observation Project(DROP ) which started last year, stumbled upon the new species while conducting a yearlong project to gather data on temperature and biodiversity for monitoring climate change effects in the Caribbean.

The new blenny fish species was caught with other fish around 160 metres deep, when scientists launched a submarine to a depth of 305m off  the Carribean Island, a few weeks ago. Named Haptoclinus dropi, the fish nearly 2cm long , and has iridescent fins and an orange and white body.

The discovery of the new fish species has sparked an interest in other life forms which may be lurking in the waters of the Caribbean. According to Dr. Carole Baldwin, a Smithsonian research zoologist, the team is studying 25 to 30 other specimens of fish and invertebrates collected during the trip that they believe are new species. “It’s like a biology bonanza. We’re in depths that scientists just missed,”said Baldwin.
new fish species discovered

The five-person submarine Smithonsian researchers are using for the Deep Reef Observation Project.

Photo courtesy of Substation Curacao

The Caribbean region which has 10 per cent of the world’s coral reefs and an estimated 1,400 species of fish and marine mammals, has, in recent years,witnessed a destruction of many reefs because of warming waters and disease.  Expert say that live coral cover has dropped to an average 8 per cent of reefs from 50 per cent in the 1970s.

Neil Hammerschlag, a research assistant professor at the University of Miami and director of its marine conservation program, said the data and collection of new species was essential to helping save Caribbean reefs. “In order to conserve, you need to know what’s there in the first place and to get an idea of the rate of biodiversity loss.We know relatively little of deep reefs compared to shallow reefs,”added Hammerschlag.

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