New Fish Species Found In Caribbean
June 5, 2013

Researchers Find New Fish 1,000 Feet Below Caribbean

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

A pair of Smithsonian researchers say they have discovered a tiny new fish that initially turned up as bycatch, accidentally snared during specimen collection at a depth of around 515 to 547 feet, according to a new report in the open access journal Zookeys.

The tiny new species of blenny fish measured less than one inch in length and was discovered off Curaçao in the southern Carribean during the course of the Smithsonian Institution's“¯Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP). The research team dubbed the new species“¯Haptoclinus dropi after the project's abbreviation and it is one of several new ray-finned fish species coming out of the project.

The DROP team used a manned submersible Curasub to catch specimens. Typically used as tourist attraction because of its large window and ability to travel at much greater depths than human divers can reach, scientists have also begun to embrace the Curasub for marine research.

"Below the depths accessible using scuba gear and above the depths typically targeted by deep-diving submersibles, tropical deep reefs are productive ocean ecosystems that science has largely missed," said lead author Carole Baldwin, a vertebrate zoologist at the“¯Smithsonian Institution. “They are home to diverse assemblages of new and rare species that we are only just beginning to understand.”

To collect samples, the researchers drove the Curasub below the surface off the coast of Curaçao in the southern Caribbean. There they collected targeted and non-targeted fish specimens using the sub´s two flexible, hydraulic arms. One of the arms is equipped with an ejection system and the other with a suction hose.

The specimen of the new species was collected using the fish anesthetic quinaldine which was pumped from the one hydraulic arm and a suction hose on the other arm. The suction hose empties into a clear vented cylinder attached to the outside of the sub where the specimens remained for storage. After returning to the surface, the collected fish were measured, photographed, and tissue samples were collected in the form of a right eye. The eye was later photographed to record its preserved pigment pattern and x-rayed with a digital imaging system.

The fish appeared to have a pale grey body with a rectangular patch of orange pigment on the side of its belly and a whitish diagonal bar across its center. Its iris appeared to be orange, fading to a yellowish inner ring.

Besides discovering new species, DROP is also focused on exploring the diversity of tropical deep reefs in the southern Caribbean. These deeper reefs are ordinary extensions of shallow water reefs, but often go unexplored because their depth makes them inaccessible.

According to a statement on the official DROP website, scientists are attempting to monitor how diversity within the region is changing over time, particularly with respect to climate change.

“By developing and implementing methods of standardized sampling and recording long term temperature changes, they can begin to explore how deep reef communities are being affected by our changing climate, acidifying oceans, increasingly polluted waters and invasive species,” the statement said.