Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Survey footage reveals undersea wonders in north

A seahorse from what could be a new species and frogfish were among the wonders revealed by the Niwa survey.
A seahorse from what could be a new species and frogfish were among the wonders revealed by the Niwa survey.

Rare fishlife, a juvenile great white shark and what could be a new species of seahorse have been found in a newly surveyed underwater area off Northland's east coast.

Frogfish
Frogfish

Scientists from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) also came upon frogfish, a rich diversity of macroalgal meadows, shellfish beds and sponges while surveying shallow water coastal habitats.

The survey, which aimed to explore different types of habitats and their marine life, was conducted using a small beam trawl research net with GoPro cameras attached, as well as dropped stationary cameras fitted with bait to attract fish.

The cameras revealed some surprises, with a juvenile great white shark bumping into the camera bait pot as it swam past, and a group of dolphins talking to each other as they checked out the sampling net down on the seafloor under tow.

A 3cm-long brown seahorse they also captured on video was being assessed to see if it was a new species.

Niwa marine ecologist Dr Meredith Lowe said the information gathered in the survey would help to fill in gaps in scientific knowledge about biogenic habitats in particular - "living" habitats created by plants and animals - and their small fish inhabitants, such as juvenile snapper.

Such data was helping build a national fish-habitat classification and inventory of New Zealand's coastal and shelf zone.

"Biogenic habitats are important, but have largely been ignored in the past."Jamie Morton

- NZ Herald

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