WHERE TO LOOK FOR NEW SPECIES
It is important also to note that discoveries are more likely to come from areas that are the focus of scientific research. There are relatively few fish taxonomists in the world today, and even fewer who are able and willing to get out onto the reef and collect specimens – many simply prefer the smell of formalin in the safety of their lab!
Two notable exceptions have been Dr. Gerry Allen and Dr. Mark Erdmann. They have spent many years exploring the remote corners of the Coral Triangle. Every trip exploring a new stretch of coastline seems to result in a gaggle of new discoveries. Their exhaustive work in the Bird’s Head Seascape region of West Papua is sure to be one of the drivers of so many new discoveries in this area.
Certain ecological niches have been richer than others in revealing new species. Many new creatures found on coral reefs have been particularly small, well camouflaged and habitatspecific. For example, the plethora of new pipefish discoveries of recent years have been small species that are very particular about where they live and as a result their camouflage is usually very good. Another rewarding habitat has been the “Twilight Zone”, which ranges from 60 to 150 metres deep. Exploration of this area pushes the boundaries of even technical scuba diving. Dr Luiz Rocha, from the California Academy of Sciences, has been a pioneer of this habitat and has discovered many new species during recent expeditions to the Coral Triangle.