Rare colourful ‘vibranium’ fish found off coast of Tanzania named Wakanda

Mildred Europa Taylor July 13, 2019
Scientists have named the newly discovered species of vibrant purple fish after the mythical African kingdom of Wakanda. Pic credit: Luiz Rocha / California Academy of Sciences

Scientists have named a newly discovered species of vibrant purple fish after the mythical African kingdom of Wakanda from Marvel’s Black Panther.

Deep-diving researchers from the California Academy of Sciences’ Hope for Reefs initiative and the University of Sydney found the previously unknown marine fish in the deep, dimly lit coral reefs of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania.

The fish are known as fairy wrasses (small, colourful reef-dwelling fish which are also popular in aquariums), according to Forbes.

The species went unknown for so long because their home is below recreational diving limits, according to the researchers. Hope for Reefs divers are trained to research in the “Twilight Zone” reefs, which can be 200 to 500 feet beneath the surface.

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Newly-discovered fish named Wakanda. Pic credit: Luiz Rocha / California Academy of Sciences

The new species, according to the team, held its purple colour even after being removed from the water and preserved for research, a process which typically causes similar species to lose their pigment.

The six centimetre-long fish, with deep purple scales, also reminded the researchers of King T’Challa’s Black Panther suit and other fabrics worn by Wakandans in the movie.

These factors, put together, inspired the official name of the fish: Cirrhilabrus wakanda or the “Vibranium Fairy Wrasse,” in honour of the mythical kingdom of Wakanda and its fictional metal vibranium.

“When we thought about the secretive and isolated nature of these unexplored African reefs, we knew we had to name this new species after Wakanda,” said Yi-Kai Tea, lead author and ichthyology Ph.D. student from the University of Sydney.

“We’ve known about other related fairy wrasses from the Indian Ocean, but always thought there was a missing species along the continent’s eastern edge. When I saw this amazing purple fish, I knew instantly we were dealing with the missing piece of the puzzle,” he said.

The researchers used a microscope to examine the fish’s scales, fin rays and spines. “DNA and morphological analyses showed the new fairy wrasse to be different from the other seven species in the western Indian Ocean as well as other relatives in the Pacific,” writes Geek.com.

The findings are detailed in a study published Thursday in the journal ZooKeys.

The team said the name given to the rare colourful fish “helped to bridge the divide between the science community and general public.”

“While research is important, it is equally important to convey it to people with more general interests,” said Tea.

“This becomes particularly important because taxonomy is often seen as ‘dry’ and boring science, but it actually has huge implications for biodiversity and conservation.”

A scene from the movie — Variety

For a high budget sci-fi movie based on an African superhero, the Black Panther movie lived up to its expectations and hype as it received a lot of reviews from viewers and critics when it was released in cinemas worldwide last February.

Its nation of Wakanda, at the moment, does not only exist in the Marvel Comics universe as the home of superhero Black Panther but also exists underwater.


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