An international team of researchers has discovered a new species of the fish genus Cirrhilabrus living in the waters off Maldives and Sri Lanka.
Cirrhilabrus is a genus of fish in the family Labridae native to reefs of the Indian and Pacific Ocean.
It includes almost 50 scientifically recognized species, commonly known as fairy wrasses.
These fish differ from many other members of their family in the way that they swim. Not only will they use their pectoral fins and tail to propel themselves forward, in a characteristic wrasse fashion, they also swim by undulating the dorsal fin.
Some fairy wrasse species are highly variable in their chromatic characteristics, which has led certain fish taxonomists to separate these color variants into valid species.
Named Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa (common name is the rose-veiled fairy wrasse), the newly-identified species is presently known from Maldives and Sri Lanka.
First collected by researchers in the 1990s, the species was originally thought to be the adult version of a different species, Cirrhilabrus rubrisquamis.
“What we previously thought was one widespread species of fish, is actually two different species, each with a potentially much more restricted distribution,” said Yi-Kai Tea, a doctoral student at the University of Sydney.
“This exemplifies why describing new species, and taxonomy in general, is important for conservation and biodiversity management.”
Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa belongs to the Cirrhilabrus jordani species complex, a group of deep-water fairy wrasses found mostly in mesophotic coral ecosystems.
Like other species in its genus, Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa frequents rubble bottoms scattered with loose coral cover.
Despite only just being described, the new species is already being exploited through 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 commercialized 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.”
The discovery is described in a paper in the journal ZooKeys.
Y.-K. Tea et al. 2022. Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa (Teleostei, Labridae), a new species of fairy wrasse from the Maldives, with comments on the taxonomic identity of C. rubrisquamis and C. wakanda. ZooKeys 1088: 65-80; doi: 10.3897/zookeys.1088.78139
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