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Two new species of freshwater fishes discovered in Vanua Levu (Fiji) now internationally recognized


Two new scientific papers have been published in the last several months highlighting the discovery of two new species of freshwater fishes unique to Fiji and only known from two river systems in Vanua Levu. Wetlands International –Oceania staff Aaron Jenkins and Kinikoto Mailautoka, made the new discoveries as part of surveys for the Ecosystem Based Management project over the last several years.

This month, the scientific paper entitled, “Hippichthys albomaculosus, a new species of freshwater pipefish (Pisces: Syngnathidae) from Fiji” was released in Aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology, co-authored by Aaron Jenkins and Kinikoto Mailautoka. This handsome pipefish was found in a small mangrove lined tributary near the mouth of the Dreketi River and is distinguished from other species by several characteristics including 10-11 white spots on the lower trunk region. 

The name comes from the latin albo (white) and maculosus (spotted), in reference to this new species distinctive series of white spots. This species reaches around 9 cm long and the males carry the eggs in a trunk pouch until they hatch. This paper is significant as not only is it Fiji’s newest endemic (only found in Fiji) animal species, it is the first new freshwater pipefish (related to a seahorse) to be discovered in about the last 30 years. Taxonomic description work was all done in country, based out of the University of the South Pacific and, recognizing the capacity being built in country, the second author is the first indigenous Fijian to have co-authored a new species of fish. 

New freshwater goby

The second new species of fish to be named recently was also first collected by the Wetlands International –Oceania team but described overseas by Dr. Helen Larson of the Northern Territory Museum. As part of a large review paper released last month in the international journal Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters, the new freshwater goby, Redigobius lekutu has been described. This species gains its name from the Lekutu river where it was first discovered although it is also now also known from the Dreketi river system. This species is significant, as it also is only known from Vanua Levu and only generally in clean water in the upper catchment areas of these two rivers with high forest cover and nowhere else on earth. It only reaches about 2.5 cm in length and is threatened by catchment disturbances such as logging, invasive species and gravel extraction in particular.

Unique and fragile nature of Fijian freshwaters and aquatic biodiversity

Aaron Jenkins, a fish biologist who manages Wetlands International work in the region and also represents Oceania to the global IUCN/WI Freshwater Fish Specialist Group states, “These recent publications are timely to help remind us of the unique and fragile nature of Fijian freshwaters and aquatic biodiversity. Only over the last decade or so are we beginning to gain a clear picture of the global uniqueness of Fijian and other Pacific Island freshwater fish faunas. Whole of catchment and “ridge-to-reef” water resource management are absolutely essential not only for preserving Fiji’s unique natural heritage but also for protecting our own health and well-being. 


Hippichthys albomaculosus, a new species of freshwater pipefish (Pisces: Syngnathidae) from Fiji

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