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Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Visitors often ask why the scythe butterflyfish (Chaetodon falcifer, Prognathodes falcifer) is the emblematic fish of the Birch Aquarium at Scripps. This dazzling fish of vivid yellow with distinctive black scythe-like markings is currently displayed in Tank 16.
The fish was chosen as the logo of the Birch Aquarium at Scripps because Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientists played a major role in discovering and describing the species.
A Colorful Find
Scripps graduate student Andy Rechnitzer first discovered the butterflyfish in 1954 near Guadalupe Island, Baja California. The discovery was published in a 1958 issue of the Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences:
"Rechnitzer swam down with aqualung equipment to try to collect a bright orange-yellow fish (a pomacentrid?) that he had seen while applying the derris-root paste at a depth of about 20 feet. Failing to relocate that specimen in the clouded water, he went lower, to the rocky bottom at a depth of about 100 feet, where, about a foot off the bottom, under a slight ledge at the base of the vertical underwater cliff, he saw, in the extremely clear water, and speared, the magnificent butterflyfish we are describing."
In 1970, Scripps collectors Ron McConnaghey and Bob Kiwala captured a live scythe butterflyfish in the La Jolla Canyon and successfully displayed it at the aquarium. Former Aquarium Director Don Wilkie officially selected this fish as the aquarium's logo because it represented the mission of the aquarium: exploration, discovery, observation, research, and education.