project news

Fishy Findings in Madagascar!

News item submitted by Frontier
News item dated 18 Aug 2009


Recent survey work by one of our marine teams has discovered three species of fish never before seen in Madagascar – and one of which can change colour! The newbies, all species of cardinalfish, spend much of their day hiding out among the spines of sea urchins.

Madagascar is home to an amazing diversity of plant and animal species, an incredible 80% of which are found nowhere else on Earth. The research carried out by Frontier-Madagascar is critical in the efforts to conserve this unique pocket of biodiversity, which is threatened by increasing human destruction and exploitation. Given that, the Madagascar Marine team aren’t complaining about diving around the vibrant coral reefs of Diego-Suarez bay! 

The bay, which is located at the Northern tip of the country, is under threat from ever-increasing coastal development and fishing practises. The surveys carried out by Frontier aim to provide a thorough insight into reef health and biodiversity that will be used to develop important environmental management plans in the region. Now a recent study by research officer Josie Pegg has led to the discovery of three new cardinalfish species present in the bay that were previously unrecorded in Madagascar.

Many cardinalfish species rely specifically on the shelter of sea urchins during daylight hours, so the sensitivity of urchins to human and natural disturbance can have a dramatic knock-on effect on the cardinalfish populations that rely on them.

It was a recent investigation into this close relationship that led to our exciting discovery. The three species found, Apogon sangiensis, Archamia mozambiquensis and Siphamia versicolor, were known to be distributed throughout the Indo-West Pacific region, but have never previously been seen in Madagascar. This discovery extends the known ranges of these species to the North of Madagascar and helps to highlight the importance of conserving the Diego-Suarez reef ecosystems.

Even more impressively, Siphamia versicolor, can change when it gets stressed, turning from a plain silver to red and black stripes.

Cardinalfish are common throughout the coral reefs of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. These small, brightly coloured fish are a major component of the Diego-Suarez Bay reef community and act as a useful indicator of reef health. They are largely nocturnal, feeding during the night and retreating to sheltered locations of the reef during the day.

Josie and her team are currently amassing more evidence about these species’ habits and distribution before formally publishing their findings.

Read more about our Madagascar marine project