Many people fantasize about swimming in the tropical coral reef, but very few actually get the chance to do so. For those who are unable to make the trip, Drs. Gerald Allen and Mark Erdmann of the Conservation Institute are bringing the magic of the reef to you with their series “Reef Fishes of the East Indies”.

The Coral Triangle, an area off the coasts of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, the Solomon Islands, the Philippines, and Timor-Leste, is a 1.6 billion acre marine population in dire need of human protection. According to The Nature Conservancy, “The Coral Triangle contains 75 percent of all known coral species, shelters 40 percent of the world’s reef fish species and provides for millions of people.” But the area is at risk due to pollution, badly planned development and poor fishing practices, says the World Wildlife Fund.

The threat of losing this extraordinary ecosystem led to the creation of the Coral Triangle Initiative in 2007.The initiative is a partnership between the six surrounding countries to preserve and protect the region and the marine life living in the coral.

But information about the area was lacking. "The need for an up-to-date reference to the reef fishes of this region has been obvious for decades, as scientists have traditionally relied on outdated monumental works such as M. Weber & L.F. de Beaufort's 'Fishes of the Indo-Australian Archipelago', published as 11 volumes between 1911 and 1962,” said Dr. Allen. “I'm proud to note that we've nearly doubled the number of reef fishes previously reported from the region."

While there is much research left to be done in the area, "Reef Fishes of the East Indies" outlines over 2,500 species, including 25 newly-discovered ones. Dr. Erdmann hopes that this publication will aid the Coral Triangle Initiative in their preservation efforts. “It is our sincere hope that this book will both inspire the people of the Coral Triangle to further appreciate the tremendous marine biodiversity they are custodians of, while also helping guide governmental efforts to better manage their marine resources for the benefit of their citizenry,” he said in the press release.

Below are a sampling of photos from “Reef Fishes of the East Indies”. Which fish is your favorite?

All photos and captions courtesy of Conservation International and "Reef Fishes of the East Indies".

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  • NEW SPECIES: Pterapsaron longipinnis - A deep reef species (below 60m depth) discovered in Cendrawasih Bay in West Papua; the name refers to the unusually long pelvic fins which this fish uses to rest on the bottom in tripod-like fashion.

  • NEW SPECIES: Aspasmichthys alorensis - a tiny clingfish known only from the Alor Strait in SE Indonesia - an area renowned for ferocious currents. This species was found while the authors were sheltering from a raging current in a rock depression at 16m.

  • NON-NEW SPECIES: Cirrhitichthys guichenoti - rare deep water hawkfish previously known only from the Western Indian Ocean; photographed here in Alor region of Indonesia.

  • NEW SPECIES: Lepidichthys akiko - a beautiful candy-striped clingfish known only from deep reefs of Cendrawasih Bay in West Papua.

  • NEW SPECIES: Pentapodus komodoensis - A small coral bream with a blazing gold stripe known only from the Komodo islands in Indonesia.

  • NON-NEW SPECIES: Eviota rubriceps - a recently described (2011) dwarf goby; example of one of the many recently described species covered in the book.

  • NEW SPECIES: Pseudanthias mica - A beautiful fairy basslet known only from a single deep reef off the southern Indonesian island of Lembata; named after the second author's daughter.

  • NEW SPECIES: Parapercis bimacula - A strikingly coloured, red spotted sand perch known only from southern Indonesia (Sumatra to Komodo) and west to the Andaman islands of India; easily observable by snorkellers in shallow depths of 2-8m.

  • NON-NEW SPECIES: Histiophryne psychedelica - never before published photograph of the recently described "psychedelic frog fish" male incubating eggs attached to its side.

  • NON-NEW SPECIES: Priolepis nocturna - a highly cryptic and rarely seen reef goby; example of the extensive coverage of over 500 species of gobies and blennies in the book.

  • NEW SPECIES: Ptereleotris rubristigma - a beautiful blue dart fish named for the prominent red spot on the gill cover; widespread throughout the East Indies region and found on soft bottoms exposed to currents.

  • NON-NEW SPECIES: Rhinopias eschmeyeri - the beautifully coloured Eschmeyer's scorpionfish; the book covers all 54 scorpionfishes known from the East Indies.

  • NON-NEW SPECIES: Synchiropus tudorjonesi - The recently described (2012) Tudor Jones' dragonet (male and female); the book includes a large number of fishes only described in the past 1-2 years and not included in other identification guides.

  • NON-NEW SPECIES: Synchiropus splendidus - an unusual shot of a pair of magnificently coloured mandarinfish caught in the act of spawning.

  • NEW SPECIES: Tryssogobius sarah - A delicate fairy goby with iridescent blue eyes known from deep (40-70m) reefs around the region; named after Ms. Sarah Crow, an aspiring young marine biologist who accompanied the second author on dives in Raja Ampat that collected this species.

  • NEW SPECIES: Grallenia baliensis - a delicate, miniscule sand goby found on the slopes of NE Bali during a CI marine survey in 2011; named after the island of Bali.

  • NEW SPECIES: Acentrogobius cendrawasih - a rare goby known only from a single silty gully off the Wandammen Peninsula in Cendrawasih Bay; unusual in that it lives at about 30m depth, far deeper than other members of this genus that are usually found above 10m.

  • NEW SPECIES: Grallenia baliensis - a delicate, miniscule sand goby found on the slopes of NE Bali during a CI marine survey in 2011; named after the island of Bali.

  • NEW SPECIES: Tomiyamichthys gomezi - A beautiful shrimp goby that lives commensally with snapping shrimp; named after Dr. Edgardo Gomez, former Director of the Marine Sciences Institute at the University of the Philippines for his invaluable contributions to marine sciences.

  • NON-NEW SPECIES: Brachysomophis cirrocheilos - rarely photographed predation scene of snake eel eating a flounder larger than its mouth.

  • NON-NEW SPECIES: Antennarius commersoni - rarely photographed sequence of frogfish spawning and then releasing a floating egg raft.

  • NON-NEW SPECIES: Opistognathus dendriticus - an unusual shot of the Philippines giant jawfish showing why this group of fishes received this common name.

  • NON-NEW SPECIES: Pteroidichthys amboinensis - an unusually coloured specimen of the Ambon scorpionfish, a bizarre-looking fish with giant "eyebrows"!

  • NON-NEW SPECIES: Signigobius biocellatus - another spectacular example of the over 500 gobies and blennies covered in the book.

  • NON-NEW SPECIES: a rarely documented image of a lizardfish preying upon an orange-lined triggerfish Balistapus undulatus.

  • NON-NEW SPECIES: Valenciennea wardi - yet another example of the highly diverse and frequently beautifully coloured (but mostly overlooked) goby fauna.

  • Authors at work photographing a new species in Cendrawasih Bay.

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