The Jakarta Post
A new species of flasher wrasse fish ' locally known as ikan karang ' has been found in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), adding greater conservation value to the Komodo National Park and the coral reefs off southwest Flores, an environmental group said on Wednesday.
The newly discovered flasher wrasse (Paracheilinus rennyae), which has been named after ichthyologist Renny Kurnia Hadiaty from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) due to her scientific contributions to Indonesian freshwater fish taxonomy, is an endemic species found only in the coral reefs of southwestern Flores and the Komodo National Park in NTT.
Mark Erdmann, Conservation International's (CI) senior adviser to the Indonesian Marine Program, said around 2,400 species of flasher wrasse had been found in Indonesia, with more than 1,700 of them in Papua and 1,300 in NTT.
'East Nusa Tenggara, however, has more endemic species of flasher wrasse fish, which will hopefully encourage more tourists to come to Indonesia, since they can only see the endemic species here, including the new flasher wrasse,' Erdmann said on Wednesday.
According to Erdmann, the first picture of the Paracheilinus rennyae was taken by a diver in NTT in 2010.
'When the diver showed us the picture, we assumed it was a new species of flasher wrasse. Scientists from Udayana University [in Bali] later confirmed the species was genetically distinct from other flasher wrasse species,' he said.
Following collaboration between scientists from Udayana University, Papua State University in Manokwari, Diponegoro University in Semarang, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Conservation International Indonesia, a description of the new species was published in the year-end edition of the aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology this year.
Flasher wrasse fish are famous among divers and underwater photographers for their electric blue and red colors that only appear during their daily mating ritual, which takes place about an hour before sunset.
During mating, the usually brown-colored males flash their mating colors while erecting their fins and swimming in short but fast bursts, in an attempt to impress nearby females and encourage them to spawn.
'The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry is increasingly aware of the need to generate more revenue from underwater tourism due to the country's marine biodiversity, rather than solely depending on fishing,' Erdmann said. 'But we haven't yet calculated the value of these endemic flasher wrasse to NTT's tourism,' he continued.
Paracheilinus rennyae is genetically distinct from all other known flasher wrasse in the so-called Coral Triangle, with its closest relative being the Paracheilinus angulatus from East Kalimantan, Brunei, Sabah and the southern Philippines.
It is unique in both color and shape, especially its circular dorsal, anal fins and tail, according to CI.
Renny Hadiaty, curator of the fish collection at the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense (MZB) within
LIPI's zoological division, after whom the new species is named, has had a productive career with LIPI for the last 27 years.
'It is particularly fitting that the new species is named after our LIPI colleague, Renny Hadiaty, and this highlights the strong scientific collaboration between Indonesian universities, conservation NGOs like Conservation International and LIPI,' Ngurah Mahardika, laboratory director at Udayana Univeristy's Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center, said in a statement.