Posted: March 23, 2022

New limu (algae) from the coral reef twilight zone receive Hawaiian species names

Martensia abbottiae, a new species of algae from Nihoa Island.
Martensia abbottiae, a new species of algae from Nihoa Island. Named after Dr. Isabella Abbott to recognize her enormous contributions to the field of phycology (the study of algae) in Hawai‘i. Image: Randy Kosaki/NOAA

In an article in Waikīkī Aquarium’s newsletter, Kilo I‘a, Dr. Randall Kosaki, research ecologist for the monument, talks about naming new limu:

Crinoids and basket stars cover this leafy glass sponge on Hoʻoikaika Seamount.
Martensia lauhiekoeloa, a new species of algae from the deep reefs of Papahānaumokuākea. The species description lauhiekoeloa refers to the beauty of the alga, and the way it flutters in the current like the long, flowing train on a holokū gown. Image: Greg McFall/NOAA

“NOAA scientists, using technical diving, have been probing the deep coral reefs of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, returning with a plethora of undescribed species that are completely new to science. Too deep for conventional scuba, these so-called mesophotic coral ecosystems, at depths ranging from 150-300+ feet, are better known as the “coral-reef twilight zone.” Here, the sunlight fades into darkness while temperatures grow cooler with increasing depth. The deep reefs of PMNM are known for high cover by numerous species of macroalgae, many of which have never been seen or collected before.

Many of these new species are receiving Hawaiian names, not just as common names, but also as their formal scientific species (descriptions). These names will be the formal scientific names assigned to these species in perpetuity. University of Hawai‘i researcher Dr. Alison Sherwood, and NOAA Papahānaumokuākea scientists have been engaging members of (OHA's) Native Hawaiian Cultural Working Group, the ‘Ewa Limu Project, and Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners to generate these names.

…One new species from PMNM in the genus Martensia was named Martensia abbottiae in honor of Dr. Isabella Abbott, the first Native Hawaiian woman to earn a Ph.D. and a globally recognized expert in algal taxonomy and ethnobotany. Dr. Abbott was a founding member of PMNM’s Reserve Advisory Council, and named the NOAA research ship Hi‘ialakai. The Hi‘ialakai was the primary research platform that supported these and many more discoveries in the NWHI.”

Read the entire article.