SCIENTISTS FIND NEW MARINE SPECIES OFF RAPA

RAPA, French Polynesia (Tahitipress, Jan. 9) - An international team of scientists has turned up as many as 20 new species of marine life in a scientific survey off Rapa, a remote island of French Polynesia, 770 miles south of Tahiti.

The scientific mission, led by University of French Polynesia (UFP) professor Claude Payri, spent about a month on the island, turning up a multitude of rare species.

Fourteen scientists from France, Italy (Genoa university) and the United States of America (Smithsonian Institute in Washington) studied fish, algas and corals.

Rapa is a former volcano. About 500 persons live on this quiet island where tradition still means a lot.

A first scientific mission had been carried out in 1984 with specialists from the French nuclear testing sites. Then, in 1990, J. Randall, from Hawaii, also studied fish in Rapa.

This island is located at the limit of what is the tropical area in this part of the Southern hemisphere. That is why one can find plants unseen anywhere else.

Payri and UFP colleague Antoine de N’yeurt found 150 species, 20 of them never seen before in French Polynesia. Some are believed to be new to science.

Payri said there are 430 species of fish water of Rapa.

"One has to stay humble," said Payri. "A lot of things are probably still to be found on and around this island."

He said that studies of the new information could lead to new theories about fish migrations in the Pacific.

January 9, 2003

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