News / Species Spotlight / Tiger Tail Coral Beauty (Centropyge cf bispinosa) (05/04/17)

Tiger Tail Coral Beauty (Centropyge cf bispinosa)

Tiger Tail Coral Beauty (Centropyge cf bispinosa)
When is a Coral Beauty not a Coral Beauty? This might seem like a trick question, but theres evidence to suggest that not all Centropyge bispinosa are created equal. Unfortunately, theres also never been any serious investigation into whether or not this widespread species is truly the same across its vast Indo-Pacific range.

Its long been recognized that the Coral Beauty is unusually variable in its appearance, but the root cause of this diversity has remained unknown. Specimens said to originate in deeper waters often show a much lighter coloration across the body, but this sort of environmentally induced difference isnt what were after. Sometimes we see aberrant specimens that are mostly orange or mostly purple, but these correspond to some unusual genetic or dietary anomaly rather than with a distinct evolutionary origin.

But the most interesting variation in this fish can be found in the Western Indian Ocean, encompassing a range stretching from Kenya in the north, down to South Africa and east to the Mascarene Islands of Mauritius and Reunion. Here, specimens consistently show a unique striped patterning to their caudal fin, earning them their monikerthe Tiger Tail Coral Beauty (C. cf bispinosa).

If youre not familiar with what a cf signifies, its essentially the taxonomic equivalent of a shrug. Its an acknowledgement that the Tiger Tail Coral Beauty looks different enough to warrant a little study that it might not truly be the same as its purple-tailed relatives from elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific. Hopefully someday well have an answer, but, for now, mystery pervades this beautiful fish.