Fish named after mythical Marvel kingdom

A Cirrhilabrus wakanda in the Indian Ocean. Picture: AAP/Dr Luiz Rocha.
A Cirrhilabrus wakanda in the Indian Ocean. Picture: AAP/Dr Luiz Rocha.

A DAZZLING new species of fish has been discovered more than 60 metres beneath the ocean’s surface off the coast of Tanzania.

The six centimetre-long fish with deep purple scales has been named Wakanda after the mythical nation from the Marvel comics and Black Panther movie.

It was spotted by deep-diving scientists from the California Academy of Sciences’ Hope for Reefs initiative and confirmed with the help of University of Sydney taxonomy specialist Yi-Kai Tea.

 

Wakanda is the home of Marvel superhero Black Panther.

Mr Tea said the fish was found in the “twilight zone” of dimly lit, deep coral reefs in eastern Zanzibar.

“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,” he said.

A microscope was used to examine the fish’s scales, fin rays and spines in order to distinguish it from another seven species in the group, and from relatives in the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Mr Tea said the various species fit around the two oceans “like a jigsaw puzzle”.

“We’ve suspected another member of this species group existed along the east African coast, but no one had been able to confirm this due to its preference for deep reefs,” he said.

“When I first saw a photo of this amazing purple fish, I knew instantly we had found the missing piece of this exciting puzzle.”

He said the decision to name the species after a popular cultural reference helped to bridge the divide between the science community and general public.

“While research is important, it is equally important to convey it to people with more general interests,” he said.

“This becomes particularly important because taxonomy is often seen as ‘dry’ and boring science, but it actually has huge implications for biodiversity and conservation.”

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