Scientists discover beautiful new rainbow-colored fish lurking among 'twilight reefs'

Baku, April 12, AZERTAC

Researchers have described a stunning multicolored wrasse in the Maldives as a newfound species, after the fish spent decades being misidentified as a closely related species. The rainbow-colored fish lives among unusually deep coral reefs known as "Twilight Reefs."

The newly described species, which has been named the rose-veiled fairy wrasse (Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa), resembles the red velvet fairy wrasse (Cirrhilabrus rubrisquamis), which is found across the western Indian Ocean. Both species live on mesophotic coral reefs, which grow much deeper than most tropical coral reefs — between 100 and 490 feet (30 and 149 meters) below the ocean’s surface, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(opens in new tab). Scientists collected the first C. finifenmaa sample in 1990, but its similarity to C. rubrisquamis meant that experts didn't recognize the fish as a distinct species.

Recently, after noticing this mistake, another group of researchers collected specimens of C. finifenmaa from the twilight reefs surrounding the Maldives. When they compared the new specimens to C. rubrisquamis wrasses, they found that C. finifenmaa females (which are mainly red, pink and blue) were a close match to C. rubrisquamis. However, C. finifenmaa males were not; their scales featured more orange and yellow hues. The researchers also found that C. finifenmaa has a different number of scales in certain body regions and taller dorsal spines than its look-alike cousin. DNA analysis confirmed that these two species were genetically distinct.

In addition, the study revealed that C. finifenmaa has a much smaller geographic range than C. rubrisquamis, which will inform conservation efforts to protect the species.

The species name "finifenmaa means "rose" in the Maldives' Indigenous Dhivehi language, referencing not only the beautiful pink and red colors displayed by the new species but also the Maldives' national flower. This marks the first time that a Maldivian researcher has chosen the scientific name of a local fish species, despite the island chain being home to around 1,100 fish species, according to study co-author Ahmed Najeeb, a biologist at the Maldives Marine Research Institute.


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