Named for the Black Panther nation of Wakanda, a dazzling new “Vibranium” Fairy Wrasse enchants with purple scales and a preference for deep, little-known reefs up to 260 feet below the surface.
Africa has new purple-clad warriors more than 200 feet beneath the ocean’s surface. Deep-diving scientists from the California Academy of Sciences’ Hope for Reefs initiative and the University of Sydney spotted dazzling fairy wrasses—previously unknown to science—in the dimly lit mesophotic coral reefs of eastern Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania. The multicolored wrasses sport deep purple scales so pigmented, they even retain their color (which is typically lost) when preserved for research. The scientists name this “twilight zone” reef-dweller Cirrhilabrus wakanda (common name “Vibranium Fairy Wrasse”) in honor of the mythical nation of Wakanda from the Marvel Entertainment comics and movie Black Panther. The new fish is described today in Zookeys.
“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,” says Yi-Kai Tea, lead author and ichthyology PhD student from the University of Sydney. “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.” MORE
Header image: Female Cirrhilabrus wakanda fairy wrasse. Credit: Luiz Rocha © 2018 California Academy of Sciences.