Skip to main content

100% endemism in mesophotic reef fish assemblages at Kure Atoll, Hawaiian Islands

The Hawaiian Archipelago is one of the most isolated island chains on Earth, and is known for a high proportion of endemism in its coral-reef fish fauna (Randall 2007). In the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI), percent endemism based on numerical densities increases with latitude on shallow coral reefs (<30 m), and peaks at 62 % at Pearl and Hermes Atoll (Friedlander et al. 2009). On mesophotic reefs (50–80 m) of the NWHI, endemism was also found to increase with latitude, reaching a peak of 92 % at Midway Atoll (Kane et al. 2014).

Here, we report the highest levels of endemism recorded from the deepest coral reefs at the northernmost atoll in the world. Surveys of mesophotic coral-reef fish assemblages were conducted using closed-circuit mixed-gas rebreathers at depths of 86–91 m at six different sites off Kure Atoll (28°40′N, 178°30′W), between September 15 and 21, 2015 (Fig. 1a). Diver transect methods were identical to those of Kane et al. (2014), and utilized a 25 × 2 m visual survey at each site. These surveys represent the deepest quantitative coral-reef fish assessments ever conducted in the NWHI. Totals of 463 individuals of 17 genera and 22 species were recorded. All six surveys recorded 100 % endemism, with no non-Hawaiian species noted (Fig. 1b).

Fig. 1
figure 1

a Location of mesophotic fish survey sites around Kure Atoll; b, c 100 % endemic reef fish assemblage at 90 m, including Pseudanthias thompsoni, Odontanthias fuscipinnis, Caprodon unicolor, Chromis struhsakeri, Genicanthus personatus, Chaetodon miliaris, Bodianus albotaeniatus, B. bathycapros, and B. sanguineus

Endemism is a key attribute of natural communities and is of great importance to the conservation of global biodiversity. Within the Hawaiian Archipelago, which is already considered to be a hot spot of biodiversity, the mesophotic reefs of the NWHI represent the highest endemism portion of this hot spot. Endemic species are important contributors to global biodiversity, but their restricted geographic ranges make them more vulnerable to extinction (Roberts et al. 2002). This underscores the importance of the protection afforded by large marine protected areas such as the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which encompasses the NWHI.


  1. Friedlander A, DeMartini E, Wedding L, Clark R (2009) Fishes. In: Friedlander A, Keller K, Wedding L, Clarke A, Monaco M (eds) A marine biogeographic assessment of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. NOAA, Silver Spring, pp 155–189

    Google Scholar 

  2. Kane C, Kosaki R, Wagner D (2014) High levels of mesophotic reef fish endemism in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Bull Mar Sci 90:693–703

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Randall JE (2007) Reef and shore fishes of the Hawaiian Islands. Sea Grant College Program, University of Hawaii, Honolulu

    Google Scholar 

  4. Roberts CM, McClean CJ, Veron JEN et al (2002) Marine biodiversity hotspots and conservation priorities for tropical reefs. Science 295:1280–1284

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank the NOAA ship Hi’ialakai for logistical support. L. Giuseffi, M. Winston, S. Matadobra, S. Jones, H. Owen, G. McFall, J. Copus, and R. Coleman assisted with diving and small boat operations. K. Fujii and J. Lecky assisted with figure preparation. Field work was conducted under Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument research permit PMNM-2015-029 issued to R. Kosaki.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Randall K. Kosaki.

Additional information

Communicated by R. Thiel

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kosaki, R.K., Pyle, R.L., Leonard, J.C. et al. 100% endemism in mesophotic reef fish assemblages at Kure Atoll, Hawaiian Islands. Mar Biodiv 47, 783–784 (2017).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Coral Reef
  • Fish Assemblage
  • Hawaiian Island
  • Marine Protected Area
  • Global Biodiversity