An Amazing Discovery Announced
On May 30, 1998 while diving off the Kona Coast in 400 feet of water using a closed-circuit rebreather, Richard L. Pyle discovered, and for the first time collected a butterfly fish never seen before in Hawaiian waters.
Getting Details Straight From Richard
Wow! Upon reading this breaking news in the local papers in Hawaii in June 1998, we immediately contacted Richard to get the full details about his exciting discovery, and this is what we learned.
- The fact that Richard had found this fish and collected it for study on one day was amazing enough. What was even more astonishing was when he told us that while he was diving off Waikiki the next day, he found more of these fish, and collected two additional specimens. "We have had these three new butterfly fish under observation at the Waikiki Aquarium since they were collected at the end of May."
- How in the world did he find this fish? "We had seen it on videotapes taken from the Hawaii Undersea Research Lab submersible (University of Hawaii)." It is because of advanced technology diving equipment, Richard has been able to research ocean depths of 200 to 500 feet, known as the twilight zone, where he has spent many, many years exploring.
- Is this fish a new species or not? "We thought it was the same species as a fish known from two specimens at Reunion Island (off Africa in the Indian Ocean). Only after I caught one and we got to see it up close and personal did it become clear that it was probably a new species. I won't know with 100% certainty for a few months yet, but I can say now with about 90% certainty that it is new."
- Now there is no doubt at this point many are thinking, oh great! A few new rare fish in the wild, and someone catches them. This too was our natural response, so to better understand how a new fish such as this is studied, we inquired if they always collect a specimen, or just videotape it for documentation?
"We always try to collect at least one specimen. Without a specimen we can't really be certain it is a new species. Fortunately, none of these things are "rare" in the sense of endangered, they are only rare in the sense that humans have a difficult time getting to where they "commonly" live." When he told us there were enough of these fish observed at 400 feet to determine that they travel in trios and eat shrimp, we were happy to hear this.
- What name did they give this fish? After extensive research, it was determined to be a new species, and has been officially named Prognathodes basabei, the Orangemargin Butterflyfish.
New Species Are Continually Being Discovered
It is amazing to us in this day and age with the obsession of species' going extinct, that there is little mention of newly discovered ones. We do believe, within reason, it is important to save forms of life near extinction, and agree that sensible measures need to be taken to insure that others don't follow suit, but why is there seldom discussion about the other end of the spectrum?
Yes, sadly there are all forms of life on Earth that have been lost to extinction, and happily there are many that have been brought back from the brink of it, but isn't it just as important to learn about new discoveries made as well? We believe if they were counted, the numbers would be surprising to all. Just look at the results of these other ocean twilight zone explorations Richard Pyle has participated in, and you'll understand what we mean when it comes to life found in the sea.
- May 1997 Palau Expedition Results: 35 new marine life discoveries. Some were completely new species, and some were familiar in other ocean waters, but all, until this expedition, had never been seen in Palauan waters before.
- May 2001 Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Tutuila, American Samoa Expedition.
Results: Unfavorable weather conditions permitted only a single deep dive during this expedition. Nonetheless, this single dive produced a long and important list of new discoveries.
These two examples are just a drop in the bucket. Do a search on the Web using keywords like new fish discovered, or, new fish found, and even, new plant, new invertebrate, and so on. The list of reports that pop up are amazing, and it's clear to see that the discovery of a new species of most any kind is not an unusual event, or one that many people believe to be a rare occurrence.
About Richard L. Pyle, Ph.D.
At the age of 19 Richard encountered one of the worst things a diver can experience, decompression sickness. In Confessions of a Mortal Diver: Learning the Hard Way, he talks openly about his horrific ordeal, and the long one year period it took for him to be recovered enough to dive again.
Richard's professional experience in the field of Ichthyology (the branch of Zoology that studies fishes) began in 1986 as Collections Technician for the Bishop Museum. He has over 100 publications, and has been Research Technician, Associate Zoologist, and Database Coordinator for Bishop Museum's Science Division, Hawaii Biological Survey Staff since 1997. Read more about Richard L. Pyle, Ph.D.
Mahalo Richard for your great contribution and dedication at the high risk you take to explore the deep waters of oceans around the World in search of new marine life.
~ Debbie & Stan Hauter