(CNN)Far beneath the waves surrounding the Maldives, there's a living rainbow in the ocean's "twilight zone." Say hello to the rose-veiled fairy wrasse, a colorful species of fish that's new to science.
Newly discovered rainbow-colored fish lives in the ocean's 'twilight zone'
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The fish, which bears the scientific name Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa, was found living at depths ranging from 131 to 229 feet (40 to 70 meters) beneath the ocean's surface.
The name honors the fish's stunning pink hues, as well as the pink rose, the national flower of the Maldives. "Finifenmaa" means "rose" in the local Dhivehi language.
While hundreds of species thrive in the waters near and surrounding the archipelago nation, this is the first fish to be described by a Maldivian scientist -- Ahmed Najeeb. A study describing the fish published Tuesday in the journal ZooKeys.
"It has always been foreign scientists who have described species found in the Maldives without much involvement from local scientists, even those that are endemic to the Maldives," said study coauthor Najeeb, a biologist at the Maldives Marine Research Institute, in a statement.
"This time it is different and getting to be part of something for the first time has been really exciting, especially having the opportunity to work alongside top ichthyologists on such an elegant and beautiful species."
The fish has a history of mistaken identity. Researchers first found it in the 1990s, but they thought it was an adult belonging to Cirrhilabrus rubrisquamis, or the red velvet fairy wrasse. This different species had only been described from a single juvenile fish found 621 miles (1,000 kilometers) south of the Maldives in the Chagos Archipelago.
Wrasses, a family of largely bright colored fishes, have been known to change in color as they transition from juveniles to adults, said senior study author Luiz Rocha, the California Academy of Sciences curator of ichthyology, in an email.
While the juveniles of many species look alike, it's the adults who carry distinguishing characteristics, he said.
"A few months ago, Yi-Kai Tea (our first author) received (remotely operated vehicle) footage from Chagos showing adults, which were very different from the adults from the Maldives," Rocha said. "That's when we decided that the species from the Maldives was new and different from C. rubrisquamis."
In their study, the researchers focused on the details of adults and juveniles, analyzing the height of the spines supporting their dorsal fins, counting scales and cataloging the colors of the adult males.
The rose-veiled fairy wrasse adult males have a unique color pattern including bright magenta, peach, orange-pink and dark purplish-red.
Discovering that finifenmaa and rubrisquamis were two separate species can help scientists understand the range of these fish, which becomes especially important when trying to protect them.
"What we previously thought was one widespread species of fish, is actually two different species, each with a potentially much more