Tosanoides obama
Sylvia Earle gives President Barack Obama a photograph of Tosanoides obama on Midway Atoll. The photograph is from the film Sea of Hope: America's Underwater Treasures, premiering on National Geographic Channel on 15 January 2017 Brian Skerry / National Geographic

A new species of fish was discovered earlier this year, and has now been named after US President Barack Obama.

Tosanoides obama is a small pink and yellow fish that was found at about 90 metres below the sea surface by a scuba-diving marine biologist.

Richard Pyle, a scientist at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, found the fish while diving in the nature reserve of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii at Kure Atoll, about 1,200 miles north-west of Honolulu. Pyle is also author of a study describing the fish published in the journal ZooKeys.

The fish was found to live nowhere but the marine reserve, making it the only known coral-reef fish to live solely at the reserve, said study co-author Randall Kosaki, a scientist at the US's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The deep reefs where they found the fish are home to a range of other fish that are also found nowhere else in the world.

"These deep coral reefs are home to an incredible diversity of fishes, corals, and other marine invertebrates," said Brian Greene, a diver and scientist at the Association for Marine Exploration, and also a co-author of the paper.

"There are many new species still waiting to be discovered down there."

Tosanoides obama
This is a holotype of Tosanoides obama, a male specimen collected by Richard Pyle at a depth of 90 metres off Kure Atoll, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Richard L. Pyle / Bishop Museum

Pyle made the discovery in the so-called twilight zone, which is deeper than most scuba divers can easily go, but not a focus of deep-sea research carried out using robotic underwater vehicles.

The fish's markings are reminiscent of Obama's campaign logo, Pyle said in a statement. "It seemed especially appropriate for a fish named in honour of the president."

In August, Obama extended the reach of the Papahānaumokuākea reserve to protect 582,578 square miles of the Pacific near the Hawaiian Islands.

"We decided to name this fish after President Obama to recognise his efforts to protect and preserve the natural environment, including the expansion of Papahānaumokuākea," said Pyle.

"This expansion adds a layer of protection to one of the last great wilderness areas on Earth."

Tosanoides obama
Tosanoides obama (upper left) is alongside presumed female (lower right, not collected) immediately prior to collection of Tosanoides obama, at a depth of 90m off Kure Atoll, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Both fish retreated into the same hole moments after this image was captured. Richard L. Pyle / Bishop Museum