The Flasher Wrasses, like their cousins the Fairy Wrasses, epitomize what a great, reef-safe marine fish really is. One of the newest species on the block, Paracheilinus rubricaudalis or the Redtailed Flasher Wrasse described by Randall and Allen in 2003, was until recently known only from collections from Vanuatu, Fiji and Papua New Guinea with a few unconfirmed reports emanating from the Solomon Islands.
Tim Bennett, one of Cairns Marine’s most experienced collectors, recently found this interesting Great Barrier Reef variation of the Redtailed Flasher which strangely enough, lacks the Red Tail for which the species was originally named. A small school of these Paracheilinus were found close by an even harder to find species, Cirrhilabrus squirei , making for extremely productive work aboard their dedicated fish collecting platform.
This interesting clear-tailed variation of the Redtailed Flasher Wrasse possesses a caudal and anal fin similar to that of close relative P. carpenteri and it could easily be mistaken for a hybrid of the two species. We think they are unlikely to be hybrids however as P. carpenteri is not known from this location and these fish are potentially the first P. rubricaudalis to be reported from the Great Barrier Reef.
For these two species to truly hybridize, a breeding population of either species would need to be mixing with one or more individuals of the other species and this appears to be an unlikely scenario in this location or any other close by. A comprehensive review of the Paracheilinus genus is currently being undertaken by world renowned ichthyologist Dr Gerry Allen and as part of the review, he will be carrying out a DNA sequencing comparison of these Great Barrier Reef fish to confirm if they are actually P. rubricaudalis or perhaps something else in their own right.