Stunning ‘Twilight Zone’ Rainbow Fish Recognized as New Species

No, not that Twilight Zone… Although, given the original show is in black and white, seeing a rainbow fish in The Twilight Zone would be something. We mean the ‘twilight zone’ reefs. According to a release, these reefs contain “the virtually unexplored coral ecosystems found between 50- to 150-meters (160- to 500-feet) beneath the ocean’s surface.” We can imagine it gets hard to journey all the way down there. But if this newly discovered species of rainbow fish gives us any indication, beautiful and fascinating things hide in the depths. We’d certainly take a journey into this wondrous land.

A close up of the rainbow fish
California Academy of Sciences

Of course, the rainbow fish has an actual name. In fact, it has two, a normal one and a scientific one. And honestly, its actual name fits just right. This rainbow fish is called the rose-veiled fairy wrasse, or Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa. Very dreamy. According to  DesignTAXI, in the Dhivehi language of the Maldives “finifenmaa” means rose. The Maldives’ national flower is actually the Pink Rose. And we can see how the fish and flower go together. Nature really delivers sometimes. Three cheers for this aesthetic.

Initially, scientists believed this fish belonged to another species. They thought the rainbow fish was a part of the equally magically named red velvet fairy wrasse. We don’t know which species we’d rather belong to. Both sound perfectly fantastical. But we think we’d go rose if we had to choose. Either way we

can’t stop looking at this fish.

Wikimedia Commons
Rainbow Fish swimming in the ocean
California Academy of Sciences

The release shares:

In this new study, however, the researchers took a more detailed look at both adults and juveniles of the multicolored marvel, measuring and counting various features, such as the color of adult males, the height of each spine supporting the fin on the fish’s back, and the number of scales found on various body regions. These data, along with genetic analyses, were then compared to the C. rubrisquamis specimen to confirm that C. finifenmaa is indeed a unique species.

This information becomes helpful beyond just for aesthetic purposes. “What we previously thought was one widespread species of fish, is actually two different species, each with a potentially much more restricted distribution,” explains the study’s lead author Yi-Kai Tea. “This exemplifies why describing new species, and taxonomy in general, is important for conservation and biodiversity management.”

The ability to identify two species helps scientists to better conserve both species. Which we definitely want.

An image of the rainbow fish
California Academy of Sciences

This rainbow fish also has historical significance. It is actually the first-ever fish described by a Maldivian scientist.

Study co-author and Maldives Marine Research Institute biologist Ahmed Najeeb shares:

It has always been foreign scientists who have described species found in the Maldives without much involvement from local scientists, even those that are endemic to the Maldives. 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.

A beautiful fish with a beautiful story. The release also shares scientists found eight other “potentially new-to-science species” in the reefs.” We can’t wait to see what these entail. We’d guess some pretty nifty new creatures. Maybe we can have a sugar-plum version of the rainbow fish next? It feels only right.

We just have to wonder if these fish grant wishes… Or have the ability to send us on some kind of oceanic quest.

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