Twilight Fish – A Deep Sea Wonder

Twilight Fish – A Deep Sea Wonder

Tara Gumpper, Writer

Humans have hunted animals to extinction. Some animals have gone extinct, others are critically endangered, and some are not threatened. However, we have to protect each and every animal species left on Earth. Because conservationists are working so hard to protect the remaining animals, it’s an exciting moment for biologists when a new species is discovered – which has just happened in the Maldives!

The Fish

The Maldives is an island country that lies off the border of Sri Lanka and India. A living rainbow was discovered in the twilight zone under the ocean surrounding the Maldives. The fish is known as Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa, or commonly, the Rose-Veiled Fairy wrasse. The Rose-Veiled Fairy wrasse lives at 131 to 229 feet beneath the water. 

The Rose-Veiled Fairy wrasse’s name is given for the pink hues on the fish’s scales. Additionally, the national flower of the Maldives is the pink rose, contributing to the naming of the fish. In the local language Dhivehi, ‘finifenmaa’ means ‘rose’. 

Discovery

While many fish have been discovered around the Maldives archipelago, this fish is the first one to be found by a Maldivian scientist. The scientist’s name is Ahmed Nadjeeb.

According to Nadjeeb, “It has always been foreign scientists who have described species found in the Maldives without much involvement from local scientists… This time it is different and getting to be part of something for the first time has been really exciting, especially having the opportunity to work alongside top ichthyologists on such an elegant and beautiful species.”

Mistaken Identity

This rainbow-colored fish has been hiding in plain sight. A while back, in the 1990s, scientists found one of the Rose-Veiled Fairy wrasses. However, the researchers thought that it was a different species, belonging to Cirrhilabrus rubrisquamis, the Red Velvet Fairy wrasse family. The Red Velvet Fairy wrasse had only been discovered in one instance, a single young fish found around 600 miles south of the Maldives.

Wrasses are fish that are known to change colors as they get older. While many young fish look quite similar, it’s the adults that are used to distinguish different species from each other. The scale colors that the Rose-Veiled Fairy wrasse has range from bright magenta, peach, white, orange, pink, purple, and red. 

Protection

When the scientists discovered the difference between the Rose-Veiled and the Red Velvet Fairy wrasses, it was a huge marine biology breakthrough. The differences between the two fish can help marine biologists protect both species of underwater life.

A University of Sydney doctoral student, Yi-Kai Tea, states, “What we previously thought was one widespread species of fish, is actually two different species, each with a potentially much more restricted distribution.”

Unfortunately, even though the Rose-Veiled Fairy wrasse is a fairly recent name, the fish is already a target for poaching, exotic pets, and the aquarium hobby trade.  SCUBA divers researching coral reefs and their marine species within them have taken a couple dives down to the reef that the Rose-Veiled wrasse calls home. The divers have discovered many more instances of the rainbow wrasse and at least eight potentially undiscovered marine species.

The scientists hope that more fish will be discovered in the future, as well as identifying those eight species of fish. For now though, we can say that the future for the Rose-Veiled wrasse looks very colorful. 

 

Works Cited

Good News Network. “Mesmerizing Rose-Veiled Fairy Wrasse Is New to Science – And Named for National Flower.” Good News Network, 9 Mar. 2022, www.goodnewsnetwork.org/mesmerizing-rose-veiled-fairy-wrasse-is-new-to-science-and-named-for-national-flower 

 “Scientists Discover New Colourful Fish Species Hiding In Maldivian Coral Reefs.” IndiaTimes, 9 Mar. 2022, www.indiatimes.com/technology/science-and-future/scientists-discover-colourful-fish-species-564052.html.

Khanna, Monit. “Scientists Discover New Colourful Fish Species Hiding In Maldivian Coral Reefs.” IndiaTimes, 9 Mar. 2022, www.indiatimes.com/technology/science-and-future/scientists-discover-colourful-fish-species-564052.html .

Kooser, Amanda. “Gorgeous, New-to-Science Fairy Wrasse Fish Is a ‘Multicolored Marvel.’” CNET, 9 Mar. 2022, www.cnet.com/science/biology/gorgeous-new-to-science-fairy-wrasse-fish-is-a-multicolored-marvel.

Strickland, Ashley Cnn. “New Rainbow-Colored Fish Lives in the Ocean’s ‘Twilight Zone.’” CNN, 10 Mar. 2022, edition.cnn.com/2022/03/10/world/rose-fairy-wrasse-rainbow-fish-scn/index.html.g