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A New Species of Fish Described from the Flower Garden Banks

A group of five small reef fishes.  One is brightly colored with purple, yellow and green. The other four are red with a horizontal white stripe.  These are all Mardi Gras wrasses.
A group of five Mardi Gras wrasses at Stetson Bank. A terminal male is visible in the center of the photo.
Photo: Joyce & Frank Burek
Researchers published the description of a new species of coral reef wrasse in the December 2007 issue of the journal Copeia. The article, written by former Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) research specialist Doug Weaver and co-author Luiz Rocha was titled: "A new species of Halichoeres (Teleostei: Labridae) from the western Gulf of Mexico" (Copeia 2007(4): 798-807).

The species was nicknamed the "Mardi Gras wrasse" by sanctuary staff due to the bright purple, yellow and green coloration of the terminal male phase. As is typical of wrasses, the juvenile and non-terminal phases of this species are a completely different color. In this case, they are red with a white stripe running from nose to tail, with a black spot at the base of the tail.

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A small, brightly colored reef fish of purple, yellow and green.  This is called the Mardi Gras wrasse.
A terminal phase male Mardi Gras wrasse.
Photo: Joyce & Frank Burek
The fish was originally discovered at East Flower Garden Bank by members of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) in 1997, and has been periodically observed (primarily at Stetson Bank) since that time. The Mardi Gras wrasse has also been reported from the Vera Cruz region of Mexico. Subsequent investigation by Doug Weaver and sanctuary staff confirmed that it was in fact a previously undescribed species of wrasse.

The scientific name of the species is Halichoeres burekae, in honor of FGBNMS photographers (and previous Environmental Heroes) Frank and Joyce Burek, who obtained the first photograph of the fish.

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Orange, branching gorgonian (soft coral) anchored in a bed of sponges and other sea life.
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