New Halichoeres named Mardi Gras wrasse

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A new species of wrasse has been described from the western Gulf of Mexico in the latest issue of the journal Copeia.

The new species is named the Mardi Gras wrasse (Halichoeres burekae) by Douglas Weaver and Luiz Rocha.

According to the authors, Halichoeres burekae is easily distinguished from all other Halichoeres of the western Atlantic in both initial and terminal phases by its short snout (7.2 to 8.1% SL), the presence of a well developed posterior canine tooth, and coloration as follows: terminal phase males have a purple head and dorsum; intense fluorescent yellow broken lateral band; electric blue lines and series of dots on head, body, and fins; black band on anterior portion of dorsal fin; dark spot with bright blue ocellus above pectoral fin.

Initial phase females are salmon-pink with a yellow snout and white lateral stripe extending from below eye to lower half of caudal-fin base, and a large, oblong black spot with an irregular margin on caudal peduncle...Dorsal and anal fins with pale yellow submarginal bands, caudal fin pale pink.

Terminal phase male Halichoeres burekae possess dark blue-green cranial bones, jaws, hypural plate, and fin elements, and prominent tusk-like canines projecting nearly vertically from upper jaw. Dentition, skull, and skeletal elements of the initial phase females resemble terminal males in relative shape and size, but have normal bone coloration, lacking blue-green pigment.

The new species is named after Joyce Burek, who first photographed the terminal phase male of this species.

Halichoeres burekae is found only in the Gulf of Mexico, and the authors note that ...this species was observed in small, mixed schools along the reef crest with other planktivorous reef fishes, primarily Thalassoma bifasciatum, juvenile Bodianus rufus, and Chromis multilineata. Small juveniles (12"18 mm TL) observed at East and West Flower Garden Bank occurred with juvenile Clepticus parrae of similar size.

The Mardi Gras Wrasse is a planktivore; stomach contents included numerous calanoid copepods (18 in holotype and 45 in paratype) and one small fish larva (holotype). During courtship, terminal phase males raise the dorsal flag when approaching a female and keep the dorsal fin erect while in close proximity to her.

Terminal males primarily use pectoral labriform propulsion for locomotion unless making rapid rushes at a female from a distance, in which case the caudal fin and body are used for rapid propulsion to pursue her. The male typically circles the female with dorsal fin flared, also periodically flaring the caudal lobes, and was observed to nip the female on the fins.

Agonistic interactions were observed between males, with males approaching each other, flaring gill plates and jaws, and rapidly fanning their pectoral fins.

For more information, see the paper: Weaver, DC and LA Rocha (2007) A new species of Halichoeres (Teleostei: Labridae) from the western Gulf of Mexico. Copeia 2007, pp. 798"807.