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2017

Whale song, rock blennies and sailfish - a sample of our Fiji finds

BY MARK ERDMANN, CONSERVATION INTERNATIONAL
Friday, 1 September 2017

Before we get into our latest expedition findings, here’s a video of two of the humpback whales who have been accompanying us on our dives. Turn up your sound so you can hear them…

We’re all counting ourselves as incredibly privileged to have had humpback whale songs as a near-constant accompaniment on our dives in and around the Lau Group.


Vuata Vatoa atoll – one of the eleven stunning reef systems we visited during the southern Lau leg of the Southwest Pacific 2017 expedition

Mark Erdmann

The Fiji leg of the Southwest Pacific marine expedition is now complete and the research team is on their way to the Kermadecs where they’ll carry out their final dives before heading home to New Zealand.

We achieved a great deal during the Fiji leg of the expedition and from a reef fish perspective it has been incredibly productive and insightful. 

In my previous blog I talked about the Lau Seascape Initiative  and being part of this expedition has made a valuable contribution to Conservation International’s work in cataloguing biodiversity in the region and identifying potential sites for marine reserves.

Though it will still be several months before we have final tallies, we know for sure that we’ve added at least 63 new records to the overall Lau reef fish species list (which now stands at 786 species), as well as over 30 new records for Fiji reef fishes (now at 1119 species!).

Bodianus busellatus, a stunning hogfish previously known only from Pitcairn, the Marquesas and New Caledonia.

Mark Erdmann

It wasn’t just the productive sampling that made our time in Fiji so enjoyable. We’ve had wonderful interactions with the friendly, generous Lau islanders and having whales to keep us company on our dives has been very special.

The dives and the work carried out on the ship during the expedition are only one piece of the puzzle. Among our fish finds are several potential new species and we will be carrying our further examinations in the laboratory and using genetic analysis to determine whether these are truly new discoveries.

A likely new species of Hoplolatilus tilefish – with stunning purple pelvic fins!

Mark Erdmann

Here are a few more of our exciting new reef fish records for Fiji – from an as-yet unidentified rock blenny to a fairly menacing looking sailfish.

A beautiful rock blenny from the wave-washed “surge zone” in less than a meter of water. We’re still working on the identification of this one!

Mark Erdmann

Chlorurus frontalis, a large parrotfish species, was present in large herbivorous schools in the southern Lau reefs.

Mark Erdmann

Cirrhilabrus punctatus – this stunning fairy wrasse was already known from Fiji, but we were pleased to get a nice shot of a male in mating colouration!

Mark Erdmann

Pervagor alternans, a secretive and rarely-seen filefish not previously recorded from Fiji.

Mark Erdmann

Parting shot – an excited sailfish greeted us upon entry to one of our last dives in Fiji!

Mark Erdmann

  • Post by: Auckland Museum

    Auckland War Memorial Museum tells the story of New Zealand, its people, and their place in the Pacific.