Photo credit: H.T. Pinheiro and B. Shepherd
In a life imitating art discovery, deep-sea diving scientists from the University of Sydney and California Academy of Science Hope for Reefs, have found a new species of fairy wrasses fish – Cirrhilabrus wakanda, off the east coast of Zanzibar, Tanzania, Africa.
The Cirrhilabrus wakanda is part of a group of fairy wrasses from the western Indo-Pacific Ocean. There are eight species recorded from the western Indian Ocean, which is where “Wakanda” was discovered. There is a nine-species complex of fairy wrasses from the western Pacific Ocean.
They named this new genus “Wakanda” due to the similarities in appearance of the fish and the Black Panther’s suit. The Cirrhilabrus wakanda is a small colorful fish. It has facial stripes above and below the eyes with prominent purple chain-like scales reminiscent of the fictional rare vibranium metal woven into Black Panther’s suit.
Another similarity between the Cirrhilabrus wakanda and the fictional Wakanda is that they both inhabit a secretive reef off of the east coast of Africa. The “Wakanda” fish lives in a small patch of reefs dominated by rhodolith and sponge beds 50-80m below the ocean.
This isolated reef is part of the mesophotic coral ecosystem. Whew! That’s a mouthful. They’re also known as “twilight” reefs. They’re light-dependent coral ecosystems that have very low light penetration.
Who would have thought movies would transcend pop culture and enter the scientific world? Hopefully, this will bring awareness to the mission of the California Academy of Science Hope for Reefs to protect and preserve little-known habitats.