New 'Twilight Zone' Fish From Africa Discovered By Scientists

Move over, Aquaman. Since Wakanda may have found its own underwater army in the form of a newly-discovered specie of purple-scaled wrasses. Just make sure the King of Atlantis doesn’t talk to them first though.

Yes, indeed. Sporting purple scales so pigmented that they don’t fade in color even when preserved for research, this new species of multicolored wrasses are discovered by deep-diving scientists hailing California Academy of Sciences' Hope for Reefs initiative and the University of Sydney. Previously unknown to science, the dazzling fairy wrasses, so-called for their size, were found in the dark mesophotic coral reefs of Zanzibar, off the Tanzanian coasts.

In honor of the mythical country of Wakanda from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which bears the colors of black and purple, the twilight-zone dwelling fish was named Cirrhilabrus wakanda, or Vibranium Fairy Wrasse.

"When we thought about the secretive and isolated nature of these unexplored African reefs, we knew we had to name this new species after Wakanda," said study lead author and ichthyology PhD student Yi-Kai Tea. "We've known about other related fairy wrasses from the Indian Ocean but always thought there was a missing species along the continent's eastern edge. When I saw this amazing purple fish, I knew instantly we were dealing with the missing piece of the puzzle."

According to the researchers, the Cirrhilabrus’ home is probably the reason why they have long been undiscovered, since the depth of these mesophotic coral reefs is well beyond recreational diving limits. In fact, the area is so deep that it only allowed them to stay underwater for mere minutes.

After examining the preserved fishes, the scientists were able to learn that these wrasses are different from the ones found in the western Indian Ocean. Its purple chain-link pattern doesn’t also fade, as opposed to its close relatives in the Pacific.

Twilight Zone reefs

Per the researchers, diving deep into the twilight zone revealed that these contain ecosystems that can also be harmed by global warming. And since these ecosystems are mostly hidden and out of sight, they are more in danger of being left out by marine reserves.

“We hope our discoveries inspire their protection,” said Dr. Luiz Rocha, Academy Curator of Fishes and co-leader of the Hope for Reefs initiative. 

underwater-2347255_960_720 A school of fish. Photo by Pixabay (CC0)