A new species of Ehu, or deepwater snapper, was discovered and named “Etelis boweni” in recognition of the contributions of Brian Bowen, a researcher at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), who has spent more than three decades studying marine fishes.

men holding a fish
Etelis boweni, a new fish species named after Brian Bowen. This fish was caught in American Samoa. (Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries)

A research study, funded by the University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program (Hawaiʻi Sea Grant) and National Science Foundation, focuses on Ehu in Hawaiian and Pacific fisheries.

A paper in the Journal of Fish Biology named the new species, which looks nearly identical to the species found in Hawaiʻi, but is genetically different. Both species are strikingly bright pink in color and occur at a depth of 650-1300 feet, and both are widely found across the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Although they look remarkably similar, the new species grows much bigger than the other, sometimes more than 3 feet in length. It also has smaller eyes and a black spot on the tip of its upper tail fin.

“The species is new to science, but sharp-eyed fishers have long suspected that the delicious Ehu was actually two species,” said Bowen.

Implications for fisheries management

two species of fish
Etelis boweni (top photo) looks nearly identical to another species, Etelis carbunculus (bottom photo). (Photo credit: Wakefield et al. 2014)

John (Jack) Randall, a world-renowned fish taxonomist from Hawaiʻi who passed away in April 2020, was part of the research team that made the discovery. This new journal article would have added to more than 900 papers published by Randall over his lifetime. The team was led by Kim Andrews from the University of Idaho, and also included Iria Fernandez-Silva from the University of Vigo in Spain, both former UH postdoctoral researchers who studied under Bowen; and fish taxonomist Hans Ho from the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium in Taiwan. The original suggestion for the species name came from a former UH Mānoa PhD student of Bowen, Michelle Gaither, who is now at the University of Central Florida.

“The discovery of the new species has important implications for fisheries management, especially in areas where both species occur together, since it’s important for different species to be managed separately,” said Andrews.

More on Bowen

man wearing a snorkel
Brian Bowen

Since 2003, Bowen has been a research scientist at HIMB leading a highly productive research lab with more than 200 peer-reviewed publications, primarily using genetics to understand the biodiversity and conservation of marine fishes.

Bowen noted, “It’s an honor of a lifetime. I’m sorry that the great Jack Randall didn’t live to see this completed, and humbly thank the team that described this species. It’s a handsome fish with particularly good taste.”

This research is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

For more information, see the Hawaiʻi Sea Grant website.

–By Cindy Knapman