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Stunning new wrasse species underlines need to protect deeper-lying reefs

05 / 08 / 2019, Mongabaycom News

A striking new species of wrasse discovered off the coast of Zanzibar, Tanzania, underlines how little is known about marine environments — even those relatively close to shore. Deeper-lying reefs like the one that is home to the newly described fish are ecologically connected to their shallower neighbors, and need greater protection. Luiz Rocha and Hudson Pinheiro, from the California Academy of Sciences (CAS), were into the fourth day of a Hope for Reefs diving expedition off the coast of Zanzibar. In the dim light 70 to 80 meters (230 to 260 feet) down, the team saw rock falls, sponges, hard, pinkish-red coralline algae and soft corals; there were plenty of fish, glimpses of familiar anthias, damselfish, and other reef species. Hope for Reefs is a five-year project aimed at better understanding and protecting reefs, and Pinheiro and Rocha’s team was conducting a general biodiversity assessment of a mesophotic reef, which are found at depths of between 30 and 150 meters (100 to 500 feet), are less well-studied than shallower reefs, but are also richly diverse ecosystems. Then something spectacular swam by. Vibranium fairy wrasses have deep purple scales so pigmented, they retain their color (which is typically lost) when preserved for research. Photo: Luiz Rocha/California Academy of Sciences “When we saw the fish we stopped right away and thought ‘Wow,’” Pinheiro says. “It was super beautiful. That is the first impression that we had.” The fish Rocha and Pinheiro saw was a kaleidoscope of colors: a pale yellow head,…

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