It’s pretty shocking to see we are only now discovering species this outrageously ostentatious, isn’t it? It goes to show how much of our planet we’ve yet to learn.
Nothobranchius flagrans is a new and absolutely breathtaking species described from swamps of the Mufufya River, tributary of the Dikuluwe system in the lower Lufira drainage in Katanga province of Democratic Republic of Congo. The killifish is described in December 2014’s issue of Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters.
Burn Bright; Die Young
Nothobranchius flagrans is an annual killifish, meaning they spend their entire lives living in temporary bodies of water – waters that fill during the rainy season but completely dessicate during the dry seasons. This also means the fish have a complete life cycle of just one year (hence the name, annual fish, like annual flowers).
For these species to propagate successive generations in such extreme conditions, they’ve developed equally extreme abilities that include rapid growth rates, very early sexual maturity, and super high reproductivity. Each year, hundreds of eggs are buried into shallow substrate where they spend months during the dry season waiting for the rain to return to flood their patch of water. When the waters return, the eggs hatch and the fry grow extremely quickly, reaching sexual maturity in a matter of weeks. The whole reproductive cycle starts anew before the dry season comes again. Once the rapidly matured fish – fish that hatched only earlier in the year – reproduce, they all die when the dry season reclaims their water.
Wild annual killifish don’t live more than a year, but domestically bred annuals can live for two or more years. The unique life cycles of these fish present an unique challenge (and reward) for captive husbandry and breeding.
For a more detailed description of African annual killifish, read this excellent TFH article.