Country’s First New Species of Fish Discovered

This new species of fish, called Eviota santanai, was discovered off Timor-Leste. Photograph by Mark Erdmann, Conservation International

The science community welcomed a new species of fish today, called Eviota santanai. The striking, pinkish-mauve-and-white animal, a type of dwarf goby, was found off Timor-Leste (map), and is the first new species of fish found in the country, according to Conservation International (CI), the group that made the discovery.

The new fish description was recently published in the journal Zootaxa, based on four specimens collected by CI scientists in Nino Konis Santana National Park, the country’s first national park. Researchers found the new fish in shallow water during an August 2012 survey designed to help officials manage the park. The scientists also discovered that Timor-Leste is third in the world for coral reef fish diversity.

The northeastern half of the island of Timor, Timor-Leste, it’s bordered by the Savu Sea to the west, the Banda Sea to the north, and the Timor Sea to the south. The nation of about one million sits just above Australia in the East Indian Archipelago and is one of the world’s newest countries, having gained independence from Indonesia in 2002.

When it comes to that new fish, like other known members of its genus, the animal has distinct teeth, which appear in two or more rows in the upper jaw. They also sport one to three large, curved, canine-like teeth in the innermost row of their lower jaw.

The species differs from its cousins in coloration and in its sensory system.

Including the new dwarf goby, the CI scientists found 741 species of fish on the coral reefs off Timor-Leste’s northern coast, bringing the total number of fish species seen in the country to 967.

Mark Erdmann, a senior advisor to CI’s Indonesia’s Marine Program said in a statement that the park and the new species were named in honor of Connisso Antonino (commonly known as “Nino Konis” Santana), a national hero in Timor-Leste’s recent struggle for independence. Antonino, who was born in the area, was known for his environmental awareness.

Erdmann added that the scientists saw 200 or more species of fish at 70 percent of the sites they surveyed, making it one of the most diverse places in the world.

Candice Mohan, CI’s Timor-Leste country director, stressed that the new species underscores the need to protect the relatively new national park, which was established in 2007, and to follow up on the no-take reserves that the nation has recently designated.

Mohan said in a statement that the reservers are essential for the developing country’s food security and economic development. “There is great potential here for the establishment of well-managed, low-impact ecotourism activities around these stunning reef habitats to provide sustainable livelihood options for the local people,” she said.


  • DP

    The name of the genus is Eviota, not Evoita, and the paper was published in Zootaxa 3741 on Nov. 29, not “this week,” just to let you know.

    • Sonia Harmon

      Hi DP,
      Thank you for pointing out those errors. The post has now been updated.

  • James Kemoh

    May they be protected for tourism, there are many other fishes to feed on.

  • Jake

    Is This For Real?

  • colin

    It is also NOT the first fish species described for the country, see here….perhaps its the 1st marine fish described for the country?:

    International Journal of Ichthyology Volume 10, Issue 2 – July 2005

    Helen K. Larson, Walter Ivantsoff, and L. E. L. M. Crowley: Description of a new species of freshwater hardyhead, Craterocephalus laisapi (Pisces, Atherinidae) from East Timor, pp. 81-88


    A new species of freshwater hardyhead, Craterocephalus laisapi, is described from the Ira Siquero River (8°26.36’S 127°10.17’E), East Timor. This is the first record of the genus which has hitherto been known only from Australia and from the southern rivers of the island of New Guinea. The new species is aligned with the Craterocephalus eyresii group which includes 10 other species spread widely across Australia and with one species occurring in south-eastern New Guinea. Craterocephalus laisapi superficially resembles C. centralis and C. cuneiceps from central and western Australia but is distinct and different from them. Freshwater members of the genus have short, almost tubercular gill rakers in the lower half of the gill arch and the rakers of the upper half are almost indistinct. Craterocephalus laisapi has relatively long lower gill arch rakers and the upper gill rakers are quite prominent. The occurrence of the new species is not biogeographically surprising as its close atherinomorph relatives, the Pseudomugilidae and Telmatherinidae, are known to occur on islands near Timor. A table of meristic and morphometric characters of all known members of the “C. eyresii” group” is presented.

  • Aaron

    East Timor did gain independence from Indonesia! It was a portuguese colony for 400 years and resisted a takeover from Indonesia for about 25 years, then became independent.

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