A few years ago, one of the world’s largest offshore fisheries, the Banna, was hit by an enormous storm that killed thousands of fish.
As the fish died, a new generation of fish was born, spawning new species.
Today, the species of Banna we know is a cross between the blue and red coralfish.
But the new species is much bigger than the Bannas we’ve come to know and love.
In a recent episode of BBC Two’s The Future, host and marine biologist David Attenborough talks to one of these new species, the blue coralfish, a small fish with a colourful backside and long, thin legs.
The fish was the first to breed in the BANYAN’s eastern coast, where it now lives in a saltwater lagoon, about 1,500 metres offshore from the Australian mainland.
“The banyan is a coralfish that is really special,” says Attenbrooks.
But it’s very fascinating and very special.””
It’s so hard to get a good look at because of the way the water moves.
But it’s very fascinating and very special.”
The Banyans blue coral is unique in Australia.
“When we started breeding the BANAs backside was really big,” says Professor Stephen Janssen, head of the University of Adelaide’s Department of Marine and Antarctic Studies.
“And the only way to get any good images of them is to get the fish on the boat and get them out of the water, and we couldn’t get the images that we wanted.”
We were actually really concerned about getting a good shot of them, because we knew that the way we were going to be using them was that they were going back in the water.
“So we knew it was very important to be able to get good images from the fish.”
The researchers started with a series of photographs, using the sonar to get close-ups of the BANNAs back and sides, but the camera wasn’t up to the job.
“At the end of the day, we were looking for a good, fast way to do it,” says Jansensen.
The camera was finally taken off in the summer of 2015.
The next year, a team of researchers with a PhD from the University at Adelaide and a PhD in marine biology and physiology from the Queensland University of Technology set out to find the right lens for the job, and they used a Canon EOS-1D Mark III with a 1.4-million-pixel sensor.
“It’s quite a high resolution camera, but it’s only about 30 per cent of the size of the sensor,” says lead researcher Dr Daniel Fennell.
“We found a really good lens and it’s quite fast and light enough to capture the full image.”
The team of scientists then used a high-resolution digital camera to photograph the fish from a range of different angles, all at different distances.
The team then analysed the images, which are now in the form of a computer-generated image, to understand the new fish.
“Our view was that the new blue coral was a new species of fish that we had never seen before,” says Fennel.
“And then we realised that it wasn’t just one fish, it was actually more than one species.”
The scientists were also able to reconstruct a history of the fish.
It has been around since the 1950s, and over the years, the researchers have identified and named several new species to make the Banya look more like its namesake.
“What this means is that it’s a new genus, it’s not a species,” says Associate Professor Michael O’Connell.
“So this new species doesn’t just represent the first species that was ever caught, it represents the first fish that ever got caught.”
But how did the fish get to be a BANYANS blue coral?
And what is this new blue, what does it mean to have blue coral in our oceans?
This new species may not be the first, but for the researchers it is.
“This is a really cool species to have, and it really does represent the arrival of the first marine species,” Dr O’Connor says.
“That’s the main reason why we’ve named it Blue Coral.”
But we don’t know exactly how it got here.
We’ve been studying it since we first came up with it.
“What we know, and what the research has shown us, is that this fish is very, very young.
And it’s been around for hundreds of thousands of years.””
And that’s the big reason that we’re so excited about this fish,” says O’Connors co-author, Dr James Millington.”
Because it’s still a very young fish, and yet it’s one of those things that is so beautiful and unique that you’re going to miss it for a long time. “