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This rainbow fish is born female and turns male as it ages

This is, however, the perfect example of gender fluidity in nature.

This rainbow fish is born female and turns male as it ages
Cover Image Source: YouTube | 9news

Let's look back at an extraordinary species that was discovered last year. An elusive rainbow-colored fish was seen in the waters of the Maldives. They are patterned in yellow, rose, and violet but the most interesting part about them is that they are born female and become male as they begin to age, as reported by MyModernMet. Moreover, the change in gender is also seen in the colors of its scales. This is, however, the perfect example of gender fluidity in nature.

They are called rose-veiled fairy wrasse and were first found in the 1990s by a scientist called John Ernest Randall. He believed that it was a color-changing species at different ages. It was only in 2022 the species were identified as distinct and named Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa. Finifenmaa means rose in the local Dhivehi language and the pink rose is also the Maldivian national flower.

According to a Mongabay article, it is the "first new-to-science species described by a Maldivian scientist", Ahmed Najeeb of the Maldives Marine Research Institute. It is said that the fish lives 130-230 feet below the surface of the Indian Ocean. The region is called the mesophotic zone so the divers with special breathing systems have to go down to spot the rose-veiled fairy wrasse.



“The mesophotic zone is one of the least explored regions in coral reefs,” said Yi-Kai Tea, a postdoctoral fellow at the Australian Museum Research Institute in Sydney. “This area is generally situated at an awkward depth – not deep enough to survey with submarines, too complex to trawl and dredge, and too deep to dive with traditional scuba techniques,” according to The Guardian.

According to Mongabay reports, "The mesophotic zone of the Maldives’ reefs lie some 30-150 meters (100-500 feet) below the ocean’s surface and had remained unexplored for a long time. In January 2022, an expedition down to 122 meters (100 to 500 feet) below sea level unveiled at least eight new-to-science species."

Moreover, to collect photographs and specimens in this zone, scientists have specialized diving gear that recirculates exhaled air instead of blowing bubbles into the water as usual scuba divers do. Scientists need to control the mix of gases and remove excess carbon dioxide and add more oxygen. It is said that rebreather divers can stretch their dives to 100 meters.



In 2019, Yi-Kai Tea, named another fairy wrasse in the mesophotic zone off the coast of Zanzibar, Tanzania, and called it Cirrhilabrus wakanda. They appear more decadent and colorful as their gender changes with age. They start their life with purple scales and as their gender changes, their heads seem to turn bright yellow. The fish is named so to pay homage to the superhero Black Panther and his kingdom Wakanda. “Like the elusive fictional nation of Wakanda … the wrasse has eluded science due to it living in obscure remote reefs deep beneath the surface,” said Tea. “The colors and patterns also reminded us of the garments used by the Wakandans in the movie,” he said.



In the Maldives, the rose-veiled fairy wrasse is already being collected for the ornamental aquarium trade. But Tea said, “As far as we know, they are not under any immediate risk.”

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