WHERE TO LOOK FOR NEW SPECIES

Asian Diver (English) - - Man & Sea -

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.

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