The recent publication highlighting the discovery of a new reef fish in Papua New Guinea called the tubeworm dwarfgoby (Sueviota tubicola) marked an important milestone in my career: my 100th description of a new fish species, all completed during my 13 years at Conservation International (CI). (If you include the species I have both discovered and described, the number increases to over 150.)
Among those 100 fish that I have introduced to the scientific community, here are five of my favorites.
- The tilefish with the vanishing stripes
During our first marine rapid assessment of Indonesia’s Kaimana coastline in the southern Bird’s Head region, I found a beautiful tilefish on a deep 70-meter (230-foot) dive. This striking fish builds large communal mounds of rubble that cover its labyrinthine burrows beneath. It bears a striking resemblance to another tilefish that my fellow scientist Dr. Gerry Allen and I had described, differing only in the presence of tiger stripes on its body.
When I first encountered this fish, I had very limited time to safely stay at this depth, and I had to choose between photographing and collecting the fish. I decided to collect it, but by the time I emerged from my very long dive, the specimen had died, and its stripes disappeared! Gerry was underwhelmed and reckoned I had hallucinated the stripes on the fish. This meant I had to do yet another very deep dive — this time as the sun was going down, and our survey time running out — to properly photograph the live fish in its natural habitat. I managed to find another mound and photograph the elusive tiger pattern, and Gerry decided on the spot to name the new species after me.