It is a fish to get the pulses of reefkeepers and ichthyologists alike racing—a species from the remote, still-wild waters of the Timor Sea off northern Australia, beyond the reach of virtually all aquarium livestock collectors. With startlingly vivid colors displayed by males of the species, Cirrhilabrus hygroxerus has been described by Dr. Gerald R. Allen of the Western Australian Museum and Michael P. Hammer of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.
The Terminal Phase (TP) males in their full glory are a study in contrasts: Orange head, brilliant white lower half running from lips to tail, jet blue-black back and dorsal with rakish mast-like dorsal spike, and flaming red pectoral and anal fins. Females are also handsome, but more in keeping with the reddish-orange colors of other fairy wrasse species.
Credit for their role in the discovery has been given to a small aquarium collection company, Monsoon Aquatics, founded as sustainable supplier to public aquaria and the aquarium trade by Daniel Kimberley in 2009. The new wrasse was reportedly first collected by Tim Cook, head diver on a trip exploring an area the company had not previously explored.
In the paper describing the species, authors Allen and Hammer give Monsoon Aquatics credit and recognition when they provide the etymology of the species name and the common name or “epithet”:
The species is named hygroxerus (from Greek hygros, meaning wet, and xeros, meaning dry), with reference to the monsoonal cycle of wet and dry seasons of northern tropical Australia. The name is also intended as an acknowledgment of Monsoon Aquatics, the aquarium fish company that supplied all of the type specimens and continues to be an excellent source of specimens for NTM. The species epithet should be considered a noun in apposition.
They offer a comparison to previously described species from the same area, part way between Northern Australia and East Timor and the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia:
The new species is most similar to C. humanni and C. morrisoni, and the three species have apparently allopatric distributions in the Timor Sea-western Sunda Islands region. These three species share a uniquely shaped dorsal fin characterized by the presence of an anterior elevated, spike-like pennant. The best means of separating these species are differences in the color patterns of the TP male, primarily on the head, upper body, and on the dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins. The new species is distinguished by a combination of a yellow-orange upper head, blackish upper body, mainly blackish dorsal fin, and scarlet-red pelvic and anal fins. The female of C. hygroxerus is most similar to that of C. morrisoni, sharing a yellowish head and yellow pectoral-fin base.
The profusely illustrated paper, published in the Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation, shows all related species and various examples of the new Monsoon Fairy Wrasse. The full paper can downloaded here: [JOSF]
Where to Buy
Monsoon Fairy Wrasses are being made available to trade by Quality Marine in Los Angeles. More information here.
Allen, G.R. & Hammer, M.P. (2016) Cirrhilabrus hygroxerus, a new species of fairy wrasse (Pisces: Labridae) from the Timor Sea, northern Australia. Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation, 22, 41–52.
Face to face with the Monsoon Fairy Wrasse, Reefbuilders: Nice images of aquarium specimens