By Hibah Khan|
March 17, 2022|
2 min read
More than two decades after its discovery, a rainbow-colored fish that lives on “twilight zone” reefs off the Maldives has finally been recognised as a new species.
After years of research, the rose-veiled fairy wrasse (Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa) was characterised last week in the journal ZooKeys.
The wrasse, which can grow to be 7 centimetres long, lives on reefs 50 to 150 metres beneath the Indian Ocean’s surface. In addition to looking incredible in life, the new C. finifenmaa is also fluorescent! It was discovered in the 1990s, but it was initially thought to be an adult version of Cirrhilabrus rubrisquamis, a fish from the Chagos Archipelago island chain 1,000 kilometres south.
Scientists from the California Academy of Sciences, the University of Sydney, the Maldives Marine Research Institute (MMRI) and the Field Museum collaborated on the discovery as part of the Hope for Reefs initiative which aims to study, protect, and restore global reef ecosystems.
Yi-Kai Tea, a doctoral student at the University of Sydney, told Sci News that it hadn’t been identified as a single species until now, which is significant for conservation.
“What we previously thought was one widespread species of fish, is actually two different species, each with a potentially much more restricted distribution,” Tea explained. “This exemplifies why describing new species, and taxonomy in general, is important for conservation and biodiversity management.”
Despite the fact that it has only recently been described, the new species is already being exploited by the aquarium hobbyist trade.
“Though the species is quite abundant and therefore not currently at a high risk of overexploitation, it’s still unsettling when a fish is already being commercialised before it even has a scientific name,” said Dr. Luiz Rocha, a researcher at the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco.
“It speaks to how much biodiversity there is still left to be described from coral reef ecosystems.”
Aside from the rose-veiled fairy wrasse, divers discovered eight other fish, all of which could be new species.
If you want to find out more about the Rose-Veiled Fairy Wrasse then click here.