Purple fairy wrasse named Wakanda discovered on reef in twilight zone 2

Purple fairy wrasse named Wakanda discovered on reef in twilight zone

The vibranium fairy wrasse

The vibranium fairy wrasse

Luiz Rocha

Scuba-divers have discovered a new fish – a vibrant purple fairy wrasse. They have named it Cirrhilabrus wakanda, after the fictional African kingdom in the Black Panther movie.

The six-centimetre-long fish has dazzling, deep purple fins and a yellow head. Luiz Rocha at the California Academy of Sciences and colleagues found the fairy wrasse more than 60 metres under the ocean in the coral reefs of eastern Zanzibar, Tanzania.

The fish’s common name, the vibranium fairy wrasse, is a nod to the powerful, fictional, purple metal found in the country and woven into the Black Panther’s outfit, much like the fish’s scales.

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Just like secretive nation of Wakanda found in the Marvel comic books, the fish were hidden in isolated and unexplored African reefs that are too deep for recreational divers to swim to.

A fish called Wakanda

The team had to use special equipment to reach the dimly lit reefs more than 60 metres below, where they found the new fairy wrasse.

Several other species of fairy wrasses are known to live in stretches of water in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, but there appeared to be a missing species along the continent’s eastern edge.

But back at the lab, a DNA and morphology analysis confirmed that this fairy wrasse was its own species – and the missing puzzle piece.

It was thought that these deeper ‘twilight zone’ reefs may be at depths that protect them from the effects of humans. But recent research has overturned the idea, indicating that these rich ecosystems are just as vulnerable as shallow ones.

Journal reference: ZooKeys, DOI: doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.863.35580

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