The new fish, Prognathodes basabei, is named after Pete Basabe, a veteran local diver from Kona who, over the years, has assisted with the collection of reef fishes for numerous scientific studies and educational displays.
"Butterflyfish are the glamour fish of the coral reefs," said Richard Pyle, Bishop Museum scientist and lead author on the publication. Also, may we add, known for coining "Deep stops" and being involved with development of rebreathers, most lately the Poseidon MKVI and Se7even.
"They are colorful, beautiful, and have been very well-studied worldwide. Finding a new species of butterflyfish is a rare event," Pyle added,
This species has been observed by mixed-gas divers and from submersibles at depths ranging from 45–187 m throughout the Hawaiian Archipelago, with shallower sightings in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and deeper in the Main Hawaiian Islands.
First spotted two decades ago
While conducting an exploratory dive using a mixed-gas closed-circuit rebreather off the south shore of O‘ahu (Main Hawaiian Islands) on 17 May 1998, Richard Pyle observed (but was unable to collect) a group of three Prognathodes near an undercut limestone ledge at a depth of 114 m.
At the time, Pyle and University of Hawaii marine biologist E.H. "Deetsie" Chave recognized this as a potential new species. However, because of the extreme depths, it was many years before technical divers using advanced electronic closed-circuit rebreathers were able to collect and preserve specimens in a way that would allow proper scientific documentation as an undescribed species.
Discoveries such as this underscore how poorly explored and how little we know about our deep coral reefs.
Randall Kosaki, NOAA scientist and co-author of the study