Gerry Allen photographing a secretive hawkfish
Gerry Allen photographing a secretive hawkfish hidden in a coral head. During the marine RAP (Rapid Assessment Program) in the Lau Seascape, the team attempted to photograph as many reef fish species as possible, particularly those that are rare or appear new. (© Conservation International/photo by Mark Erdmann)

Editor’s note: The article below is excerpted from a Special Report on the Lau Seascape in Fiji. It was originally published on June 2, 2017.

Last month, a team of conservationists set sail from the island of Fiji. Their mission: to survey marine life in the Lau Islands, an unheralded group of islets scattered over thousands of square miles of the South Pacific. (Read the first story in the series here.)

Researchers routinely find new marine species — a testament to how little we still know about our oceans.

This expedition was no exception. In this post, team members Mark Erdmann of Conservation International and renowned ichthyologist Gerry Allen report on some of the new species they believe they found during their dives in this little-explored part of the world.

Though Fiji’s reef fish fauna has been relatively well-researched in recent decades (with just over 1,000 species recorded as of the start of our survey), we were nonetheless optimistic of uncovering at least a few hidden gems as we combed the reefs.

To our delight, Lau proved to be highly biodiverse in reef fishes, and we recorded 527 species over the 11-day trip. Included in this total were six to nine new or potentially new species, as well as several previously known but still undescribed species.

<< Scroll down to see the species the team discovered >>

Unsurprisingly, most of these new and potentially new fish species were small gobies that are often overlooked by divers and even by many reef scientists. These included a number of coral dwarf gobies in the genera Trimma and Eviota, as well as a sand goby in the genus Grallenia. There was also a subtly beautiful damselfish in the genus Pomacentrus that we believe to be new and are…