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Newly discovered limu species named after local conservationist Laura Thompson

Scientists name new species of limu from Papahānaumokuākea after island conservation leader Laura Thompson
Cameron Ogden-Fung
Live, freshly collected specimen of Croisettea kalaukapuae in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Four new species of deep-sea limu were recently discovered in Hawaiian waters. Two were found off the shores of Maui and two in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

One species found in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is the Croisettea kalaukapuae, named after local conservationist Laura Kalaukapu Thompson. She died in 2020 at age 95.

Thompson led an advisory council that helped establish cultural and natural protections for Papahānaumokuākea. Kalaukapu means “the sacred leaf."

NOAA research ecologist Randy Kosaki remembers discovering the species during a 300-foot dive at Papahānaumokuākea.

"On this particular dive, I remember it for two reasons because it was freezing cold by tropical diver standards — it was probably in the high 50s. And then we got to the bottom and switched our lights on. The first thing we saw was this bright, almost iridescent red algae that clearly was nothing we had ever seen before," Kosaki told HPR.

"So we collected it hoping it would be a new species, and in fact it was. So it's very fitting then that such a beautiful new species from someplace as special as Papahānaumokuākea would be named after Laura Thompson, who devoted so much time to bringing a high level of protection to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands," he said.

The full scientific paper was published in the journal Phycologia.

“What a joy and honor to name a new species after a beloved kupuna who made strides for the community to arrive in the present, celebrating 2022 as the Year of the Limu,” said lead author Feresa Corazon P. Cabrera, a University of Hawai‘i Ph.D. candidate.

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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