- While diving in the waters surrounding Saint Paul’s Rocks, an archipelago off Brazil, in June last year, researchers discovered a stunning pink-and-white neon-colored fish that’s new to science.
- The researchers were so taken by the colorful fish that they did not notice a large six-gill shark swimming very close to them. For its “enchanting” beauty, they named the fish Tosanoides aphrodite, or the Aphrodite anthias, after the Greek goddess of love and beauty.
- Aphrodite anthias is the only known species of the genus Tosanoides found in the Atlantic Ocean. All the other known species of Tosanoides live in the Pacific Ocean.
In a remote part of the Atlantic Ocean off Brazil, researchers have found a stunning pink-and-white neon-colored fish that’s new to science.
Luiz Rocha, an ichthyologist at the California Academy of Sciences, and his colleague Hudson T. Pinheiro were diving in the waters surrounding Saint Paul’s Rocks, an archipelago off Brazil, in June last year, when they spotted the colorful fish at a depth of 120 meters (400 feet), swimming amid rocky crevices of twilight zone reefs.
Suspecting that the fish was a species that hadn’t been described yet, Rocha and Pinheiro began collecting some of the individuals to study later in the lab. The pair were, however, so taken by the new fish that they didn’t notice a large six-gill shark (Hexanchus griseus) swimming very close to them. The researchers say the fish had enchanted them “much like Aphrodite’s beauty enchanted ancient Greek gods,” and they duly named it Tosanoides aphrodite, or the Aphrodite anthias, after the Greek goddess of love and beauty.
“This is one of the most beautiful fishes I’ve ever seen,” Rocha said in a statement. “It was so enchanting it made us ignore everything around it.”
Along with Claudia Rocha, a research and curatorial associate at the California Academy of Sciences, Rocha and Pinheiro studied the fish in greater detail, and described it in a new study in ZooKeys. They found that the Aphrodite anthias is the only known species of the genus Tosanoides found in the Atlantic Ocean. All the other known species of Tosanoides, such as Tosanoides obama found in Hawaii and named after former U.S. President Barack Obama, live in the Pacific Ocean.
The males of the new species have alternating pink and yellow stripes extending along their bodies, while females are a solid reddish-orange in color.
“Fishes from the twilight zone tend to be pink or reddish in color,” Pinheiro said. “Red light doesn’t penetrate to these dark depths, rendering the fishes invisible unless illuminated by a light like the one we carry while diving.”
Reefs in this zone, at depths of 60 to 150 meters (200 to 500 feet) lie between the sunlit surface waters and the deep, dark abyss. These reefs, while underexplored, are thought to be extremely diverse habitats home to several species that have yet to be described.
Saint Paul’s Rocks, where Aphrodite anthias lives, is also isolated from both the American and African coastlines, which has likely resulted in high endemism in the area — that is, species found in these waters are not found anywhere else in the world. For example, previous research has found seven reef fish species that occur only at Saint Paul’s Rocks. The Aphrodite anthias is the eighth such endemic species.
“In a time of global crisis for coral reefs, learning more about unexplored reef habitats and their colorful residents is critical to our understanding of how to protect them,” Luiz Rocha said. “We aim to highlight the ocean’s vast and unexplored wonders and inspire a new generation of sustainability champions.”
Pinheiro, H.T., Rocha, C. and Rocha, L.A. (2018) Tosanoides aphrodite, a new species from mesophotic coral ecosystems of St. Paul’s Rocks, Mid Atlantic Ridge (Perciformes, Serranidae, Anthiadinae). ZooKeys, 786: 105 DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.786.27382