Cirrhilabrus beauperryi is an example of how variations may turn out to be separate species

By on Feb 29, 2012

Male Cirrhilabrus beauperryi. Photo by Frank Baensch.

Cirrhilabrus beauperryi isn’t a species new to science or new to the aquarium trade. It has been offered for sale and is not a rare or uncommonly seen fish in wholesalers or fish stores. It is however, a relatively new addition to the Cirrhilabrus genus, and was previously confused with the similar looking C. punctatus. Officially described in 2008, Cirrhilabrus beauperryi is the 50th species out of the current 52 officially described fairy wrasses. That’s not including the known unknowns that have yet to be given an official name in paper. 

Cirrhilabrus beauperryi in the wild. Left side picture of a male in nuptial coloration. Right picture of several males and a female in the background. Photographer unknown.

Known from the northeastern New Guinea to Solomon Islands, C. beauperryi is differentiated from the very closely related C. punctatus in color. Previously thought to be just a geographical variant of C. punctatus, the first specimen collected in PNG turned out to be genetically distinct from the above mentioned fish. Here’s just another example of how similar looking species from different geographical niches can turn out to be new species as mentioned before with Pseudanthias ventralis as well as Cirrhilabrus exquisitus.

C. beauperryi in Madang, PNG. Photo by Jan Messersmith.

Male pictured in Milne Bay, PNG. Picture by Gerald Allen

The physical appearance of adult male C. beauperryi is quite distinct from the normally drab greyish-brown of C. punctatus. Adults are a greenish-yellow above with a bluish body ventrally. Separating the two colors is a horizontal band of purple-pink. Ventral fins of C. beauperryi are very long and elegant. Having kept one specimen before, the temperament observed for this species is a little towards the aggressive side. Unlike other Cirrhilabrus, the single specimen I kept did not keep its colors well. Perhaps it could be one species where multiple females are needed to retain the male coloration. Anyway, when displaying its nuptial coloration, the greenish-yellow coloration dorsally changes to a bright ochre and the pink stripe intensifies as seen in the picture above.

 

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