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High school students name new fish species

21 December 2017
Why taxonomy is important for biodiversity
A University of Sydney taxonomist has discovered a new species of fish called Navigobius kaguya, after examining two specimens from Japan and the Philippines, which high school students named during a workshop.
A female Navigobius kaguya. Photo by S.K.Tea.

A female Navigobius kaguya. Photo by S.K.Tea.

 

A University of Sydney taxonomist has discovered a new species of fish called Navigobius kaguya, after examining two specimens from Japan and the Philippines.

High school students who participated in a workshop run by the Sydney Environment Institute, named the new fish species after a character from a Japanese folk tale.

The findings are detailed in Zootaxa, an international peer-reviewed journal for animal taxonomists, and authored by Dr Anthony Gill from Sydney University Museums, University of Sydney student Yi-Kai Tea, and Dr Hiroshi Senou from the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History in Japan.

During the workshop, Dr Gill talked the students through the day-to-day work of taxonomists and the importance of documenting the world’s species. Presented by the Sydney Environment Institute in partnership with the Seymour Centre, the workshop explored the impact of climate change. 

Global biodiversity is being lost at an alarming rate. It’s critical that our next generation understand the devastating impact of climate change and habitat degradation on species.
Dr Anthony Gill

Over 200 high school students from Sydney and regional NSW schools voted to name the new species after the Moon Princess Kaguya from the Japanese tale Taketori Monogatari (translation: The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter).

“The students were presented with a selection of potential names for the new fish species and were also given the opportunity to vote and to suggest alternative names,” explained Dr Gill.

The name is a nod to the species’ habitat in the Ryukyu Islands of Japan and alludes to the small spots on the first dorsal fin, which resemble the symbols on moon phase charts.

Dr Gill describes several new species each year, based mainly on specimens sent to him for identification. Species naming activities are offered for one or two species each year, coinciding with National Science Week and other activities for school students at the University of Sydney.

“Giving primary and high school students the opportunity to be involved in the work of ichthyologists by naming a new species is very rewarding.”

Since 1991, Dr Gill has described and named over 70 different fish species, ranging from tiny gobies to large barramundi. His specialty is the Indo-Pacific fish family Pseudochromidae, or dottybacks, for which he has named over one third of known species.

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