Kermadec critters uncovered

03 Jun 2011

An expedition of scientists to the Kermadec Islands has discovered at least three species of fish believed to be new to science and several more never recorded in New Zealand waters before.

The three week expedition in May, the largest scientific expedition ever to explore the inshore coastal waters of the Kermadecs, reached double figures in species not previously recorded in our seas.

The Kermadecs Biodiscovery Expedition left Tauranga on May 9 and was the largest scientific expedition ever to explore the inshore coastal waters of the Kermadecs.

The 13-strong team included scientists from Auckland Museum, Te Papa, the Department of Conservation, the Australian Museum and NIWA.

Auckland Museum marine curator Dr Tom Trnski says he believes three of the species collected on the expedition were probably new to science while another 12 had not been recorded before in New Zealand.

The three species that Dr Trnski believes are new to science include a little left-eye flounder, a pipe fish and a Lotella cod.

Dr Trnski said the pipe fish which was 10 centimetres long, with a white body and striking orange spots – was an exciting find.

“Pipe fish are related to sea horses, and are really just like a sea horse that has been straightened out,” he said.

The new species recorded for New Zealand waters include a shark, a zebra lionfish, a tropical banded eel, a blackspot sergeant and a tropical goatfish.

He added final confirmation of the news species would not be possible until after the return of the expedition.

Scientists were also exploring the islands and DOC botanist Dr Peter de Lange found three species of filmy ferns that had not previously been recorded in the Kermadecs.

The Kermadec group of 13 islands and islets lie in a chain at least 1000 km north-east of the North Island at the centre of New Zealand’s largest marine reserve of 7450 sq km.

The sub-tropical waters are home to many species not found elsewhere in New Zealand and are the only part of our seas that have never been commercially fished.