Four new species of fish discovered in Philippine waters

May 27, 2019 - 1:40 PM
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An aerial view of Palawan (Unsplash/Rhys McKay)

Four new species of fish were discovered in different parts of the country this 2019, according to two studies published in an online peer-reviewed journal.

Science news website Flip Science Philippines first reported about the discovery last April.

The pair of studies where researchers revealed this information can be found in ZooKeys, a peer-reviewed open-access journal of biodiversity research.

New fish species

Sardinella pacifica

Sardinella pacifica (Flip Science/Harutaka Hata & Hiroyuki Motomura)

Japanese taxonomists Harutaka Hata and Hiroyuki Motomura wrote that they first found sardinella pacifica, a new species of nutritious sardines, in Manila Bay.

They soon found others of their kind in the provinces of Palawan, Sorsogon and Samar Island.

The physical attributes of the fish is closely similar to that of another sardines, the sardinella fimbriata because both have “lateral scales with centrally discontinuous striae, a dark spot on the dorsal-fin origin, more than 70 lower gill rakers on the first gill arch, the pelvic fin with eight rays, and 17 or 18 prepelvic and 12 or 13 postpelvic scutes.”

“However, the new species is distinguished from the latter by lower counts of lateral scales, pseudobranchial filaments, and postpelvic scutes, and a shorter lower jaw,” the researchers wrote.

Pacifica is also endemic in the Philippines. Another sardine species found only in the Philippines is the sardinella tawilis.

Dr. Hata told Flip Science that the pacifica’s gill rakers are the fish’s natural adaptation to Philippine waters.

Gill rakers are “bony projections located on the inner side of the gill arch that catch food particles.”

Chromis gunting (scissors chromis)

Chromis gunting (Flipscience/Luiz A. Rocha)

A group of researchers found three species of chromis, a genus of iridescent damselfish, in the mesophotic coral ecosystems in the Philippines.

The scissors chromis was discovered in the Verde Island Passage, one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, at depths of 90 to 130 meters.

The Verde Island Passage is a strait that traverses the shipping ports of Batangas, Oriental Mindoro, Subic and Manila.

It is characterized by its scissor-like tail, which name is derived from, with gradient hues of brown, pink and silver on its body.  It grows up to 6.77 cm in length.

Chromis hangganan (Dark margin chromis)

Chromis hangganan (Flipscience/JD Fong)

The dark margin chromis is only found in Lubang Island in Occidental Mindoro at depths of 90 to 130 meters.

It has a yellowish body with dark brown dorsal and anal fins. Its name hangganan came from the Filipino word “border.”

Flip Science states that this refers to the fish’s fin margins or borders.

This chromis species is also 5.78 cm in length.

Chromis bowesi (Rhomboid chromis)

Chromis bowesi (Flipscience/Luiz A. Rocha)

The rhomboid chromis was discovered in many parts of the Verde Island Passage such as in Batangas Bay, Puerto Galera Bay and Verde Island.

Researchers recorded five specimens of it at depths between 80 and 120 meters.

The colors range from purplish blue to brownish-grey on its body.

Among the four, the sardinella pacifica is the only fish considered as endemic to the Philippines. The three damselfish may be found in other parts of the world.

“Most of the species described here are only known from MCEs (mesophotic coral ecosystems) in the Philippines,” the researchers explained to Flip Science.

Marine life in the Philippines

According to Greenpeace Philippines, the country’s marine waters are abundant with significant marine habitats such as coral reefs and mangrove forests.

“These habitats are estimated to host at least 2,000 species of fish, 5,000 species of clams and other mollusks and crustaceans, 22 species of whales and dolphins, more than 900 species of seaweed, and more than 400 species of corals,” an article said.

The Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center listed eight protected aquatic species in the Philippines.

These are the milkfish fry, the milkfish, the milkfish fingerling, the humphead wrasse, the seahorses, the manta ray, the great white shark, the whale shark, and all sawfishes.

The researchers did not indicate if the four new species are considered endangered or threatened.