Hybridised animals never cease to amaze and even the most jaded collector is not immune to their uniqueness The random combination of DNA thrown together by nature’s genetic dice can often prove more surprising than our wildest imaginations. If someone asked 1000 people to come up with, sight unseen, an illustration depicting the offspring of the two distinct species Thalassoma janseni and Thalassoma quinqivettatum, the results would differ in some slight way with each interpretation. We’ll let Mother Nature have the final word.
Even more intriguing, collected on the same trip as the recent rarity Centropyge nigriocella, Tyson Bennett, diving off Cairns Marine’s vessel Clearwater, was making the most of every opportunity while visiting East Holmes Reef in the Coral Sea situated 150 miles to the east of Cairns. Working in shallow water (<10m depth) the hybrid he collected was associated with a coral rubble habitat occupying an area of approximately 20 x 300m and experiencing periods of high current. The parentage of the fish above (speculated by some as Thaloassoma amblycephalum x T. lunare) has resulted in debate amongst even the most experienced staff at Cairns Marine and further highlights the quandary posed by these genetic mashups. The specimen below is believed to be a possible hybrid of Thalassoma janseni and T. quinquevittatum.
Targeting a variety of highly desirable species in this area it is hard to believe that this little gem could be what the diver considered as by-catch. Cirrhilabrus laboutei and C. exquisitus, Centropyge bispinosa, C. bicolor and Coris gaimard were the targeted fish that originally caught the collector’s eye and the hybrid was swept up in the net without realisation.
Nature will continue to throw up these wonders as long as similar species share like habitats. Fortunately we are in a position to witness the product of these natural genetic experiments and share them with those that can truly appreciate their unique beauty.