From: California Academy of Sciences
Published October 19, 2017 12:04 PM

A New Butterflyfish— A Rare, Surprise Find— Is Described from the Philippine “Twilight Zone” and Academy Exhibit

A newly described species of brown-and-white Philippine butterflyfish—the charismatic Roa rumsfeldi—made a fantastic, 7,000-mile journey before surprising scientists with its unknown status. Live specimens collected from 360 feet beneath the ocean’s surface in the Philippine’s Verde Island Passage escaped special notice until a single black fin spine tipped off aquarium biologists back in San Francisco. Deep-diving researchers from the California Academy of Sciences’ Hope for Reefs team—with genetic sequencing help from a parent–son team—share their discovery of a fifth species of Roa this week in ZooKeys.

“We named this reef fish Roa rumsfeldi because, as Donald Rumsfeld once said, some things are truly ‘unknown unknowns,’” says senior author Dr. Luiz Rocha, Academy curator of ichthyology and co-leader of its Hope for Reefs initiative to research, explore, and sustain global reefs. “This fish caught us completely off-guard. After traveling from the deep reefs of the Philippines to our aquarium in San Francisco, former Academy aquarium biologist and co-author Matt Wandell noticed a black fin spine that looked different from other known Roa we’ve collected in the past. It was a light bulb moment for all of us.”

Butterflyfish—which sport bold patterns—are iconic coral reef species. Because this group’s taxonomy is relatively well understood, scientists didn’t expect to find an unknown species on a recent expedition.

Read more at California Academy of Sciences

Image: Brown-and-white Philippine butterflyfish.  (Credit: © 2017 Luiz Rocha and the California Academy of Sciences)

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