New Deepwater Species Of Rainbow Wrasse Collected In Japan

by | Jul 10, 2016 | Fish | 0 comments

It’s been a busy summer for wrasse fans. First came the discovery of a new pencil wrasse, and it was just last week that we were introduced to a new
Halichoeres from Mauritius. Now, we are treated to what is likely to be an undescribed species of Rainbow Wrasse. The video above, posted by Deep Sea Challengers, highlights a bright red fish procured from Okinawa, Japan at a remarkable 240 meters!

Undescribed Suezichthys sp. from Okinawa Japan. Credit: Deep Sea Challengers

Undescribed Suezichthys sp. from Okinawa Japan. Note the faint orange vertical bars present along the body. Credit: Deep Sea Challengers

Suezichthys is not a genus most aquarists will be familiar with, as the dozen or so species are exclusively associated with subtropical or deepwater habitats and thus rarely collected—only the occasional S. arquatas from New Caledonia or S. gracilis from Japan show up now and then. This new species differs quite prominently from the four other known Japanese species in having a series of small dark spots behind the eye, as well as it’s primarily red coloration.

The closest relative of this wrasse is likely to be another recently discovered and currently undescribed species known from the mesophotic reefs of Hawaii. Like its Japanese counterpart, the Hawaiian Suezichthys sports a nearly identical set of dark spots behind the eye, but it seems to differ in having a more pastel coloration and in lacking a dark spot posteriorly. With such a small number of specimens known, it’s hard to say how diagnostic these features are for these two geographically distant populations.

Male & female of an undescribed Suzeichthys wrasse from Hawaii. Credit: Richard Pyle / Bishop Museum and NOAA

Male & female of an undescribed Suzeichthys wrasse from Hawaii. Credit: Richard Pyle / Bishop Museum and NOAA

The fauna of Japan and Hawaii is quite closely linked. Yellow Tangs abound in some of the oceanic islands near Japan, and the Japanese Angelfish (
Centropyge interruptus) has been known to occur in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. There’s also Pseudanthias thompsoni (a deepwater planktivore from Hawaii rarely seen in the aquarium trade), which has its apparent sister species (P. caudalis) in Japan, so it makes sense that these two distant regions might share similar Rainbow Wrasses in this same ecological niche.

  • Joe Rowlett

    Joe is classically trained in the zoological arts and sciences, with a particular focus on the esoterica of invertebrate taxonomy and evolution. He’s written for several aquarium publications and for many years lorded over the marinelife at Chicago’s venerable Old Town Aquarium. He currently studies prairie insect ecology at the Field Museum of Natural History and fish phylogenetics at the University of Chicago.


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