Sea Sanctuaries Blog

New species of fish named after Helen Newman

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Exciting things have been going on at Sea Sanctuaries recently. A new species of fish has been discovered and it has been named after one of our founders Helen Newman, leader of the survey that led to the discovery of this species. The fish has been named after her for her tireless conservation efforts on behalf of Raja Ampat and its indigenous communities over the past decade..

Helen is a Marine Biologist who has worked in SE Asia for more than 30 years and co-founded Sea Sanctuaries with Simon Day. 

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The new species of Trimma helenae, was discovered by Dr Mark Erdmann, who is on our Scientific Advisory Board, in the southeastern lagoon at Penemu. The new species has a unique colour pattern, consisting of a yellow anterior half and red posterior half, with four small white spots along the midline of the dorsal and ventral surfaces of the caudal peduncle. T. helenae belongs to a group of 12 valid nominal species defined by having a broad bony interorbital region (width 80– 100% of pupil diameter), but differs from all of but three of these in having only cycloid scales in the midline and on the sides of the nape. The other members of the group have mostly ctenoid scales in this region. 

We also need to say thank you to Dr Gerry Allen, who is also one of our Scientfic Advisers, for his role in the discovery. Credits are due to Mark & Gerry for the Paratype and Holotype images you see here. 

 

 

Fish diversity in Raja Ampat...

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Fish diversity

According to Fishbase (the largest global species database of fish) there are 32,700 different species of fish that have been classified by August 2013. It is estimated that roughly 250 new species are described every year. 1,669 of these fish species can be located in Raja Ampat. This is incredible as this is a much higher number than the Great Barrier Reef which inhabits a much larger area and is widely regarded as a diving mecca. Last Year we discovered three new species of fish in our no take zones proving just how important the marine area is.


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In 2013 we were fortunate enough to have Dr Gerry Allen, the regional authority on fish identification and classification & Dr Mark Erdmann , Head of Conservation International's Bird's Head programme conduct a 4 day rapid assessment survey of our No Take Zones. They discovered three new fish species & a further 7 fish species were noted as 'beyond their normal distribution ranges'. In just 4 days and 11 sites, the scientists recorded a total of 707 fish species in the 5,600ha Penemu protected area. They were amazed that the average number of species on the sites was 281 species (considered exceptionally diverse) and 3 sites had over 300 species. One site had a truly staggering 357 species on one dive (the second highest fish count ever recorded on one dive).

 

Aside from its location in the bullseye of the Coral Triangle, Sea Sanctuaries conservation areas contain a wide range of habitats from steep walls and fringing reefs to mangroves and lagoons. This is one of the reasons for the exceptionally high biodiversity. 

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