This week the official description of Gramma dejongi was published and it offer up some juicy bits of info about where this beauty lives and comes from. In case you’ve been living with the bristleworms under a rock, Gramma dejongi is a sensational new reef fish species which has been quietly hiding out on Cuban reefs until it was discovered last year.
First we had the teaser pictures of G. dejongi, then the high quality images of Dejong’s gramma and then another Gramma dejongi video to fuel our desire. With the original description now in our hands, we can finally start to picture what this fish is all about in it’s natural environment.
Gramma dejongi was described by Benjamin Victor and John Randall in the Journal Zoological Studies: Gramma dejongi, a New Basslet (Perciformes: Grammatidae) from Cuba, a Sympatric Sibling Species of G. loreto. G. dejongi was described from specimens occurring in deep reefs off of Trinidad on the South-Central coast of Cuba. While the royal Gramma prefers to inhabit relatively shallow water, G. dejongi is found at depths of 20-30 meters, about 70 to 100 feet and the black-cap gramma occurs deeper. Strangely enough, G. dejongi is not an isolated species, it is sympatric with both the royal gramma and black-cap gramma which occur in the same geographic range. Genetic analysis indicates that G. dejongi is genetically very similar to Gramma loreto and that it has only recently diverged as a new species.
G. dejongi is most closely related to the royal gramma but it does not have a purple anterior, nor does it have the eyestripe that is characteristic of the aquarium favorite. Furthermore, Dejong’s Gramma is a smaller species growing to about 45mm (~two inches) whereas the royal gramma is almost twice that size at 80mm. Gramma dejongi is definitely a new species because it co-occurs with Gramma loreto and there must be some kind of reproductive isolation for this overlap to occur. What further separates the Dejongi gramma from others is that aquarists have noticed that this species does not swim upside down like royal gramma tend to do.
So there you have it! G. dejongi is a good card-carrying fish species, we know where it comes from and how it is different, now we just need to get some!