RSS The diversity and forms of Cirrhilabrus exquisitus

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    [​IMG]Cirrhilabrus exquisitus in nuptial display. This specimen was pictured in Palau by Pisces Kazu. Such forms can also be found in Indonesia and PNG.

    Cirrhilabrus exquisitus is an ubiquitous species both in the wild and in the trade. The familiar fish is most often exported out of Africa but can be found in other parts of the world with a myriad of color forms. Like the ventralis anthias we covered the last time, the difference in these specimens from selected parts of the world may turn out to be genetically different and may warrant the differentiation into separate species in future. Continue reading for more pictures on the diversity of this labrid.

    [​IMG]Dead specimens of C. exquisitus from different geographical locales. Starting from top right going clockwise, specimens from Takaroa, Tuamotu; Villingili, Maldives; Okinawa, Japan and Papua New Guinea. Pictures by John E Randall.

    [​IMG]C. exquisitus in nuptial display. The intensification of coloration is always coupled with the "lightening up" of the blue streaks that run across the body. In Maldivian specimens, nuptial males display two saddles on the dorsal fin as well as patches on the body. Picture taken in the Maldives by Rudie Kuiter.

    The range of Cirrhilabrus exquisitus is huge, ranging from the Western Indian Ocean, to the Indo-Pacific and east to the Tuamotu islands. Specimens with unique color forms are also found in Papua New Guinea, Palau, Japan and the Rowley Shoals. C. exquisitus*is commonly found in the aquarium trade and comes out of Africa, Maldives, Fiji and Vanuatu. Specimens like the one shown above headlining the article can be found in Indonesia and Palau. These are generally green overall with beautiful contrasting scarlet fins. Maldivian specimens are also green, but lack the red unpaired fins. Instead, they possess pink markings on the body; albeit less compared to the closely colored African specimens. Exquisite fairy wrasses from all geographical locations possess blue streaks and spots, which intensify and “light up” during nuptial display. In addition, some specimens may show additional saddles or patches during display. In the wild, exquisite fairy wrasses typically inhabit rubble zones along reef edges or on coral bommies. They live in large groups with mixed sexes and males often display to each other. Females are overall pink in coloration. One of the more stunning geographical variations are those hailing from the Vanuatu region.

    [​IMG]Vanuatuan specimens are beautiful with yellow dorsal fins and pink saddles that run down the olive green body. From left to right, picture by LiveAquaria, me and Dr. Hiroyuki Tanaka.

    Vanuatuan exquisite wrasses sport pink saddles that run down the body along with a yellow dorsal fin. The amount of pink and yellow varies from specimen to specimen but they are generally more colorful. The most commonly seen specimens are those hailing from South Africa, and these are dark green with a large portion of the head and body covered in pink.

    [​IMG]Cirrhilabrus exquisitus, pictured in Kwazulu-natal by Rudie Kuiter.

    [​IMG]C. exquisitus pictured in Kochi, Japan. Photographed by Tomonori Hirata.

    Apart from those entering the trade from familiar locales with collection stations such as Africa, Vanuatu, Fiji, Indonesia and Maldives, there are others with even more unique coloration that do not. The four picture montage at the top show dead specimens from Papua New Guinea, Tuamotu and Japan. Due to the location in which they live in, these are almost never seen in the trade and sport some pretty amazing coloration that’s still pretty obvious even from the dead pictures. The dead specimen that was collected from the Tuamotu islands is particularly beautiful with plenty of red pigmentation on the body and fins.

    The successful establishment in many reefs around the world has inevitably led to some form of speciation, which led to the rise of such diversely colored specimens within the species. Some scientists have already begun labeling them as Cirrhilabrus cf exquisitus 1-5, so as to differentiate them from the type species which was collected from Mozambique, Africa.

    [​IMG]I found this unique specimen from Indonesia in which a large portion of the anterior is yellow. The fish was donated to and photographed by Lawrence Sim.

    [​IMG]Rowley shoals variation of C. exquisitus in nuptial display. Picture by Rudie Kuiter.

    The geographical variation and difference in color between other reef fish species are often subtle and not noticeable. That is apparently not the case for C. exquisitus. The drastic difference in color between variations everywhere may lead to suggest that these fish have been evolving for a long period of time now, long enough to develop such outstanding colors that are unique to the area in which they are found in. As a wrasse lover myself i’d say it will be very exciting to see some of these to enter the trade.
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