Banggai Cardinalfish Fact Sheet

March 5, 2012 in General Banggai Info, Slideshow

Pterapogon kauderni – Koumans, 1933

Discovery I

Banggai Cardinals are vulnerable to many predators and are virtually always found close the bottom.

First collected for science: 1920, by Swedish zoologist Walter A. Kaudern, who sent two preserved specimens to the Leiden Museum of Natural History in the Netherlands, where they were forgotten for 13 years.

Discovery II

Ichthyologist Dr. Frederick Petrus Koumans (1905–1977), curator of fishes at the Leiden Museum, described the species and erected a new genus, Pterapogon (cardinalfish with long fins), and assigned the species name of kauderni in honor of the man who originally collected the fish.

Discovery III

In 1992, dive & travel writer Kal Müller, author of Diving Indonesia, made the first known underwater images of Pterapogon kauderni and sent copies to ichthyologist Dr. Gerald R. Allen for identification.

Discovery IV

Thinking that this was a new species, and an “incredibly beautiful” one at that, Allen kept the fish in mind but was not able to travel to the remote Banggai Archipelago until 1994. Accompanied by underwater photographer Roger Steene, his coauthor on many projects, Allen made the arduous 10-hour ferry trip to Banggai Island. As Müller had reported, the fish could easily be found off the end of a dock in 6 feet of water, under an primitive outhouse, on an oyster farm.

Allen and Steene documented that the species lived in shallow water, on seagrass beds, and in association with Longspined Sea Urchins, Diadema setosum. They also made the startling discovery that this cardinalfish was a mouthbrooder, with the male carrying eggs and fry in his buccal cavity until the young fish could be spat out as fully capable, miniature versions of the adults.

Because this fish lacked the usual larval phase that distributes other coral reef species over huge distances, Allen and Steene were able to explain why the species had never been seen or collected outside of the Banggai Islands.

In researching the species, Allen was surprised to learn of its collection by Kaudern 74 years earlier, and its description and naming by Koumans in 1933.

Discovery V

Aquarium hobbyists and professionals learned of a previously unknown species at the Marine Aquarium Conference of North America in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1995, when Dr. Allen gave a presentation introducing “the Banggai Cardinalfish.”

Aquarists were instantly mesmerized by its beauty, unique color patterns, and unusual reproduction behavior. Literally an overnight sensation, Pterapogon kauderni became one of the most coveted marine species of its day, commanding prices of more than $100 for the early imports.

Given its limited range in the wild, Pterapogon kauderni soon became a species of concern to many observers who feared that it would be vulnerable to overcollection.

Endangered Listing

In 2007 the Banggai Cardinalfish was placed on the IUCN Red List as an Endangered Species, after field surveys found wild populations greatly reduced in some areas and totally absent in others.

Download PDF: