Zebra lionfish a first for New Zealand

Here is one of the most dramatic fish we collected yesterday – and it’s the first time it’s ever been recorded anywhere in New Zealand. So a brand new record, not just for the Kermadecs but for the whole country.

Yesterday's find of a Zebra Lionfish (or Dendrochirus zebra) is a first for New Zealand © Malcolm Francis

Its common name is a zebra lionfish, and its scientific name is Dendrochirus zebra. Lionfish are always stunning to look at, and this is not the only species of lionfish that we’ve seen.

I asked Tom what he thinks is the most exciting find of the expedition and he is raving about the gobies. There is only one record of a goby from here, and the team have collected what they think are three species, which would mean at least two new records for the Kermadecs.

Gobies are very small fish, just a couple of centimetres long, which just goes to show that good things come in small parcels!

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27 Responses to “Zebra lionfish a first for New Zealand”

  1. Stephen

    What a great site. Each new blog is eagerly awaited. Can we see the Gobies?

  2. Melanie

    Will definitely put in a request with the team for pics of the gobies. We’re all very excited about each new find here at the museum too – hopefully we’ll get some of the treasures they’re finding back here so everyone can see them up close.

  3. Theo de Lange

    Are there any lizards and skinks or natural pests on Meyer islands ?

  4. Peter Buchanan

    Hi Tom, Peter et al.,

    Watch out for all those (marine) fungi – though I see you’ve already found some toadstool groupers. We’re all heading for Taupo – for the 25th NZ Fungal Foray.

    Hope the weather is kind for you, and that the biodiversity proves to be amazing!

    Kind regards from all at Landcare Research, Auckland.

    Peter Buchanan

  5. Alicia Warren

    Hi Alison,

    Congratulations on winning the Royal Society of NZ Science Book 2011 with Kakapo: Rescued from the brink of extinction.


  6. Dave w

    Alison, I understood that lion fish were growing in populations around the world and due to their eating habits were consuming local fish species. Do you see these being a problem for future NZ fisheries. Lion fish are becoming popular in the USA in some fish shops due to their population growth. Could we see these showing up in our fish and chip shops.

  7. Gareth Rapley

    @ Theo
    No lizards at all on the Meyers or in the Kermadec group. From experience, there are only introduced plants on the Meyers combined with lots of birds!

  8. Gareth Rapley

    @ Peter
    The most interesting terrestrial fungi I saw were earth stars and one example of a coral fungi (purple).

  9. Rhys Hanna

    Glad to see that all is well Tom and congratulations on organising such a wonderful research trip. We do however, miss seeing you and Stella dogwalking in the park.

  10. Melanie

    Thanks for all your great comments and questions – I have passed these on to the ship for them to answer when they come up between dives!
    We’re also getting some answers from people that have joined the blog – so a really big thanks to people like Gareth. Theo and Peter, Gareth has answers for both of you – no lizards it seems but some great looking fungi.

  11. Barbara Chinn

    Hi Warren

    Disappointing that you couldn’t make landfall (or Splashfall!) on the more southern islands on the way out. I hope you can do so on the way back, because I understand that it’s important to see whether or how far each species has evolved independently on each island. Hope you find more specimens on the other islands than on North Meyer.



  12. mini prasad

    wow! very happy to see Kakapo book won Science Prize! yay!
    Blog looks amazing and very excited about your lionfish find! keep up the great blogging! long live the gobys as well!
    mini in NHIC!

    • Melanie

      Thanks for the question about bird sightings. We have had a few troubles getting answers off the boat this weekend but when I spoke to them on the phone this afternoon they said at dusk and dawn the skies are filled with thousands of sea birds. As they were making their way to the Kermadecs they also mentioned seeing albatrosses skim the waves with their wing tips and grey-faced petrels, and even a rare skua, flying by. Alison has a whole bunch of news and pictures to share with us as soon as we get the comms system up and ready again so there may be other bird reports to come.

      • mini

        thanks for the bird update! can’t wait to see some images -which skua was sighted ?

  13. Theo & Finn de Lange

    Hey Dad – what happens to the blogs in the weekend ? Or are you all having the weekend off like us ? We miss the blogs :-(

  14. Melanie

    Hi Theo and Finn – they definitely don’t get the weekends off – (poor Dad!) we are thinking they actually must be super busy because we haven’t heard from them for 24 hours. When they do get in touch we’re hoping there is going to be lots of news!

  15. Anna Trnski

    I am across the road at Griz house looking at your website and reading about your expedition and findings. I am very excited for you and very proud. Be safe, love mite.

  16. Melanie

    Hi everyone, we’ve had some feedback from the ship which answers some of your great questions – Eli and Finn we have an answer about how dangerous lionfish can be and Dave we now know whether or not these little guys are set to become a pest and/or a Friday night takeaway meal:

    Thanks for the interesting observations about lionfish becoming a problem species in some parts of the world, to the extent that they are now targeted as an edible fish in part of the USA, and whether that might happen here. Lionfish naturally occur in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, which means they are a natural part of the ecosystem, and their numbers are kept in check by natural predators and diseases, and by the availability of their food supply.

    They have been introduced into the Atlantic Ocean, usually by people releasing them from aquariums, and because they are out of their natural range and away from the usual checks and balances they have become a nuisance fish in places. This is a very common story with land and marine species around the world – take them out of their natural ecosystem and they often become weeds and pests. None of the fish biologists on board are worried about the new lionfish species becoming a pest here, and there’s no likelihood they’ll be turning up in local fish and chip shops anytime soon.

    Someone else asked how dangerous can lionfish be. There are lots of potentially dangerous creatures in the sea, but they aren’t actively looking to bite or sting you and there are some simple rules to avoid getting into trouble with them. Learn to identify poisonous animals, and leave them alone. Like many creatures, lionfish use their distinctive markings and colourings to flaunt the fact that they are poisonous and if you give them a wide berth they will return the favour.


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