New goby is named after Emperor

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A new species of goby found in the western Pacific has been named after the Emperor of Japan.

Gerald Allen of the Western Australia Museum and John Randall of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu named the new species Exyrias akihito in honour of Emperor Akihito of Japan, who is a keen ichthyologist and recognised expert on gobiid fishes.

The new Exyrias species is known from a relatively wide area of the western Pacific, with specimens being collected from the northern parts of the Great Barrier Reef, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and the Yaeyama Islands off the south of Japan.

Unusually, this species is found in clear waters around coral reefs over sand or rubble bottoms, rather than in the soft-bottomed turbid waters of estuaries like the other three members of the Exyrias genus. It's also found in quite deep water, with all specimens captured caught at depths of over 43m/141 ft.

Allen and Randall's description, which was published recently in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, says that the new species is probably a close relative of Exyrias belissimus. Indeed, some specimens previously identified as E. belissimus by other authors in the mid 1980s were actually found to represent E. akihito.

IdentificationThe new species of Exyrias reaches around 10cm/4" in length and differs from the other three species in both colour, morphology and meristics.

The greatly elongated dorsal fin of the species is perhaps its most striking feature and sets it apart from all others. It's also much paler in colour, with numerous yellow and brown spots on the head, presumably because it lives in a different habitat and needs different camouflage to the estuarine dwelling species.

Emperor AkihitoEmperor Akihito collected many of the type specimens of E. akihito himself and donated the specimens to Randall and Allen to describe.

He has devoted much of his life to the study of gobies and has published numerous scientific papers on the members of the goby family.

Emperor Akihito is an honorary member of the Linnean Society of London and received the King Charles II Medal from the Royal Society in 1998, which is given to foreign heads of state who have made an exception contribution towards the promotion of science in society.

Exyrias genusThe Exyrias genus, commonly known as the fantail gobies, was erected by Jordan and Seale in 1906 and now contains four species. You can view the distribution of some of these species on Practical Fishkeeping's Fish Mapper application.

Exyrias belissimus

Exyrias ferrarisi

Exyrias puntang

Exyrias akihito

For more details on the new discovery see the paper: Allen, GR and JE Randall (2005) - Exyrias akihito, a new species of coral reef goby (Teleostei: Gobiidae) from the Western Pacific. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 2005: 53(2) - 231-235.