Study at the bottom of the sea discovers a new species of fish dubbed Rose-Veiled Fairy Wrasse, or pink veiled wrasse, which draws attention for the amount of colors. The species has the scientific name Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa and is found in the depths of the ocean, about 40 to 70 meters below the surface. 

Rainbow fish, in the Maldives Islands (2022). Reprodução: TeaShyiKai

The study was published in March in the journal ZooKeys and featured a local biologist named Ahmed Najeeb. Interestingly, this is the first time that a native participates in the discovery and cataloging of a species found there. In a statement, Najeeb highlighted the emotion of having participated in this important moment for local research. 

Luiz Rocha, a Brazilian researcher and diver, is also one of the authors of the article and explains that the name chosen refers to the pink tones of the fish and also to the national flower of the Maldives – this is because finifenmaa means “pink” in the local Dhivehi language. 

According to the researcher, in an interview with CNN International, the discovery shows how much biodiversity “still remains to be described in coral reef ecosystems”. Rocha is also director of the Hope for Reefs initiative at the California Academy of Sciences, USA. 

Some recent research carried out by the Brazilian’s team revealed, in addition to the species of the multicolored fish, at least 30 other species of fish unknown until then. These include a purple wrasse named after the nation of Wakanda and a pink reef fish named after the Greek goddess of love. According to Rocha, many of these species are threatened. 

Therefore, many more researches are planned for the future, in order to explore – and, above all, protect – the Maldives’ reefs. The initiative is a partnership between the California Academy of Sciences and the Maldives Marine Research Institute. 

Dive into the depths 

Diving in these conditions offers several risks as Rocha can dive up to 152 meters – for the sake of comparison, for safety reasons, recreational diving is limited to 39 meters. Therefore, few scientists around the world carry out research within this theme, making it even more important. 

Professionals use rebreathers, which recycle exhaled gas, and a special breathing gas containing helium that is safe for deep dives. Rocha says that the descent takes between 10 and 15 minutes, but the ascent can take up to six hours, for the body to decompress. 

This effort gives divers about 10 minutes of maximum depth for the study, where they look for fish, collect DNA samples and record the number of organisms in that area. If they find a new species, Rocha and his team capture and carry the organism to the surface through a decompression chamber. 

Even though he’s been doing this for years, Rocha says he feels anxiety before every dive. “But when we get there, we know why we’re there. When you see something that no one has seen before… it’s absolutely incredible,” says the diver. 

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