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Many new species and new records of marine species discovered in Hawaiian Islands

22/11/2006 00:00:00 news/crab
Over 100 new species records possible from French Frigate Shoals

October 2006. A 3 week scientific expedition to French Frigate Shoals in the North-western Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument has returned to Honolulu with the discovery of many new species and a better understanding of marine biodiversity in the Hawaiian Archipelago.

An all-star team of world-renowned biologists, who specialize in identifying and naming organisms, working with an experienced support crew, collected and photographed many species that they cannot identify and are believed to be newly discovered species to science.

The expedition found several potentially new species of crabs, corals, sea cucumbers, sea quirts, worms, sea stars, snails, and clams. Many other species were found that are known from other areas but have never been recorded from French Frigate Shoals, the North-western Hawaiian Islands, or even the Hawaiian Archipelago. From this expedition, well over 100 new species records will probably be identified for French Frigate Shoals.

Scientists aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ship Oscar Elton Sette conducted biodiversity surveys at French Frigate Shoals, with a focus on the small marine organisms - crabs, worms, and many other invertebrates, algae, and even microbes - which are often overlooked but that make up the majority of living diversity on coral reefs. Dr. Joel W. Martin of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County said ‘What we did not find is also important. There were several groups of animals that we expected to find but did not find, or found only rarely, such as porcellanid crabs. The apparent absence of these common reef organisms may provide insight into how the unique flora and fauna of French Frigate Shoals came to be.’
Anemone hermit crab, Dardanus brochypops, with sea anemone, Caliactis armatus, with an unidentifed barnacle on its shell that may be a new species. © National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Over 50 different sites were surveyed throughout the atoll using a variety of ingenious collection methods including baited traps, brushing of rubble, underwater vacuuming with gentle suction, plankton tows, light traps, sediment and water sampling and many others.

‘Because our work was conducted within the borders of the world's largest fully protected marine area, we have been extremely careful to follow protocols that would minimize any disturbance to this ecologically delicate region.’ said Dr. Martin. In all, more than 200 sampling events were conducted, producing more than 2,500 recorded collections.

The expedition was part of the international Census of Marine Life's Census of Coral Reef Ecosystems. The broader Census of Marine Life consists of 17 projects intended to assess the diversity, distribution, and abundance of ocean life and explain how it changes over time.

Expedition members took hundreds of stunning images that show these organisms in all their spectacular complexity and beauty using an impressive arsenal of photographic equipment. Many of these images can be seen on the expedition websites. In addition to the photographs taken by the scientists, Susan Middleton, who recently co-produced a photographic book for National Geographic on the plants and animals of the North-western Hawaiian Islands called ‘Archipelago: Portraits of Life in the World's Most Remote Island Sanctuary,’ was onboard and glued to her camera the majority of the time.
Information from this effort is posted on the CReefs website at, and articles and other information about the cruise can also be viewed at Records from the cruise will be placed in the Pacific regional NBII Pacific Basin Information Node and international Ocean Biogeographic Information System databases.

Read more about the Census of Marine Life

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