A new species of dartfish, characterized by vibrant coloring, was recently discovered, researchers said.
The reef dweller, which is about an inch long, had previously been confused with another species, Nemateleotris helfrichi. But a recent analysis revealed it to be a distinct variety, according to a study published March 17 in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology.
“We’ve long suspected that they actually represent two separate, distinct species, but we’ve only now been able to publish about it,” Yi-Kai Tea, one of the study’s authors, told Newsweek.
The conclusion was made after researchers conducted a molecular analysis, which indicated a small difference in the two species’ sequence data, according to researchers who are affiliated with the Australian Museum.
The two species differ by 1%, which is not unusual for coral reef fish that may have diverged recently, researchers said.
Additionally, a series of measurements and close-up observations were conducted on live and preserved specimens to confirm the conclusion.
The new species was named Nemateleotris lavandula after the lavender flower — a “reference to its beautiful coloration in life,” researchers said.
Distinguished by its purple hue and bright yellow snout, the newly discovered sea dweller is found throughout much of the Pacific Ocean, and it resides in sand channels near coral reefs at depths of 80 to 300 feet, researchers said.
“Without careful taxonomy we would have never known that there were two species hidden under one name,” Tea told Newsweek. “Now that we do, we can re-assess their distributions, their statuses, and where to go from here. Putting a name to something is the first and most important step towards conservation. You cannot protect what we don’t know exist.”
Over 100 new species of marine creatures are discovered every year, according to UNESCO.
“Experts estimate that, at this rate, it would take another 30 years to describe the 5,000 species of marine fish that remain unknown today,” the organization’s website states.