Biologists have discovered a new fish species among the Maldivian islands – rose-veiled fairy wrasse (Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa). The fish has not yet been identified as one species, which is groundbreaking for scientists and conservation purposes.

Colorful Fish Inhabits the Indian Ocean around the Maldives

Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa is the first fish described by a Maldivian scientist. Biologist Ahmed Najeeb found a new species living at 40 to 70 meters (131 to 229 feet) below ocean level. Scientists have misidentified fish in the past. It was first discovered in the 1990s but was considered to be an adult red velvet fairy wrasse (Cirrhilabrus rubrisquamis).

Reef fish, Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa, Maldives

“What we used to consider as one widespread species is actually two different species, each with a potentially much more limited distribution,” explained Yi-Kai Tea, a doctoral student at the University of Sydney. “This is an example of why the description of new species and taxonomy is generally important for the protection and management of biodiversity.”

The Twilight Zone Hides More Treasure Between the Reefs

Rose-veiled fairy wrasses live among the cliffs in the twilight zone, an area difficult to dive. Due to their color, the locals call the fish Dhivehi. Rose-veiled fairy wrasse was named according to on the nation flower, the Pink rose. Adult male reef fish have a unique color pattern, including bright purple, peach, orange-pink, and dark purple-red.

Research team holding the rose-veiled fairy wrasses.

“Although this species is relatively abundant and therefore not currently exposed to a high risk of overexploitation, it is still worrying when fish is already commercialized before it even has a scientific name,” researchers at the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, Dr. Luiz Rocha. According to Sci News, “This speaks to how much biodiversity remains to be described from coral reef ecosystems.” 

The Maldivian Institute of Marine Research and the California Academy of Sciences plan to explore other Maldivian reefs. In addition to the rose-veiled fairy wrasse, the research team assumes they have found at least eight potential new fish species.

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