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International News: Scientists uncover ‘gender-bending’ fish in Indian Ocean

Posted: Thursday, October 20, 2022. 9:57 am CST.

Photograph: Yi-Kai Tea/The Guardian (UK)

By Aaron Humes: According to The Guardian (UK), a unique species of fish has been encountered in the Indian Ocean off the Maldives archipelago.

Around the Maldives, between 130 to 230 feet beneath the Indian Ocean, there are flickering shoals of brightly coloured, finger-length fish that never venture up to the coral reefs at the surface.

The rose-veiled fairy wrasse (Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa) is one of many species that deep-diving scientists have found in the mesophotic (or twilight) zone, which lies between the sunlit shallows and the dark, deep ocean. It extends about 150 meters down and contains its own distinct mix of species.

The rose-veiled fairy wrasse was named in 2022: finifenmaa means rose in the local Dhivehi language – a double nod to the colourful fish and the Maldivian national flower, the pink rose, which goes by the same species name. Like other species of wrasse, the rose-veiled fairy wrasse changes their appearance and sex as they age. They start life as females and mature into males, becoming considerably more colourful. The males adorn themselves in stunning nuptial colours during the mating season, presumably to impress females.

The finding was part of the California Academy of Sciences’ Hope for Reefs initiative, which aims to better understand and protect the world’s coral reefs, focusing on mesophotic reefs.

In the Maldives, the beautiful colours of the rose-veiled fairy wrasse have proved irresistible and they are already being collected from the wild for the ornamental aquarium trade, although currently they remain abundant.


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