Researchers amazed by discovery of mysterious, neon-coloured fish

26 Sep 2018

Image: Ethan Daniels/Shutterstock

Researchers off the coast of Brazil have discovered a new species of fish described by one team member as the most beautiful they’ve ever seen.

The world’s oceans continue to astound us with new discoveries coming almost daily, the latest of which is a new species of fish found in the remote Brazilian archipelago of St Paul’s Rocks.

A team from the California Academy of Sciences published its findings in ZooKeys, revealing the dazzling vivid pink and yellow creature spotted more than 120 metres beneath the ocean’s surface.

Found nowhere else in the world, the fish has been named Tosanoides aphrodite after the Greek goddess of beauty. “This is one of the most beautiful fishes I’ve ever seen,” said Dr Luiz Rocha. “It was so enchanting, it made us ignore everything around it.”

To have such a colourful exterior is quite odd for a fish from so deep down in the ocean – usually at this depth, they are pink or reddish in colour. Red light doesn’t penetrate the darker depths of oceans, rendering the fishes invisible unless illuminated by an artificial light.

The neon-coloured fish hiding in a rocky crevice.

Tosanoides aphrodite inhabits rocky crevices of twilight-zone reefs. Image: Luiz Rocha/California Academy of Sciences

A hotbed of activity

When the fish were brought safely back to the lab, the team was able to discover that males of the species are outfitted with alternating pink and yellow stripes while females sport a solid, blood-orange colour.

Further DNA analysis revealed that the new species is the first Atlantic-dwelling member of its genus.

The location chosen for the team’s dive, St Paul’s Rocks, is considered a great spot for new discoveries as it is so remote. Given the region’s unique geology and isolated location, many of the species that live there are found nowhere else on Earth.

However, recent research suggests that the newly discovered fish and others like it at these depths are as much under threat as those closer to the surface. “In a time of global crisis for coral reefs, learning more about unexplored reef habitats and their colourful residents is critical to our understanding of how to protect them,” Rocha said.

“We aim to highlight the ocean’s vast and unexplored wonders, and inspire a new generation of sustainability champions.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic