Kiwi scientists discover new fish species

New Zealand marine scientists exploring the remote islands of the Southwest Pacific have discovered a new species of fish and captured some rare underwater video footage.

One of the key aims of the six-week expedition is to fill the knowledge gaps on fish diversity in the region and scientists have been using BRUVs (Baited remote underwater videos) to survey the marine life.

Footage taken at Walpole Island, a small uninhabited French Island 180km east of New Caledonia contained a surprise – an aggressive octopus punching a large fish.

In its eagerness to get at the bait the octopus lands a heavy blow on a passing tropical snapper (the action takes place at 16 seconds).

Credit: Adam Smith, Massey University

The fish and the octopus milling around the bait depart quickly when a grey reef shark approaches the BRUV.

Scientists have described the fish life around the remote island as “mind blowing”.  Jeremy Barker from Te Papa said “it is like living in a National Geographic documentary".

Each BRUV has two cameras to allow the scientists to calculate the distances and fish size.

One of the things the scientists are keen to discover is what reef fishes live where, with an emphasis on sharks.

This video shows numerous sharks – including grey reef, silver point and hammerhead.

Credit: Adam Smith, Massey University

Fish experts including Tom Trnski (Auckland Museum), Sally Reader (Australian Museum), Mark McGrouther (Australian Museum),and Carl Struthers (Te Papa) have already recorded 75 different species of fish.

A highlight has been the discovery of a yet-to-be identified 2cm scorpion-like fish species.

Divers on the expedition have been using a Rotenone, a natural product made from the roots of the barbasco plant to flush out fish hiding in the coral reefs.

The rotenone is administered to a small section of reef where it inhibits oxygen transfer across the fishes’ gills. The fish then emerge from the reef in search of clear water and divers catch them using hand nets.

More on the expedition can be found here. 

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