Elusive, enchanting, bewitching and beautiful, Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love was certainly no slouch in the looks department. Her otherworldly glamour was said to entrance even the most steely-hearted hero, so it comes as little surprise that ordinary scientists would fall prey to her charms as well. At least that’s the reasoning behind the name they've given a newly-discovered species of reef fish that’s left them as breathless as the goddess of love herself.

Tosanoides aphrodite is a dazzling, neon-coloured denizen of “the twilight zone” - a region that’s deep enough for light to be much less bright than at the surface, but still bright enough to fuel a thriving ecosystem. In this half-lit world, the stunning colours of this mysterious little fish stand out all the more clearly, but because it’s only been found to inhabit rocky crevices in one very remote Brazilian archipelago, it’s plain to see why it’s escaped scientific notice until now.

First spotted at a depth of over 400 metres beneath the ocean waves, its unabashedly vivid pink and yellow stripes enchanted researchers from the California Academy of Sciences that were examining the area as part of a recent expedition. In fact the scientists that made the discovery were so entranced by the vibrant little disco fish that they completely failed to notice a massive sixgill shark that was gliding through the waters above them. Thankfully the beautiful predator was spotted by the team’s cameraman in time to take some highly useful footage.

But despite its hypnotic beauty, Tosanoides aphrodite wasn’t done surprising the scientists yet. A detailed study back at the laboratory revealed that the vibrant stripes were only sported by the male of the species, while the female was a less striking solid, blood-orange colour that’s far more common in the depths of the twilight zone where red light cannot penetrate. In addition, a thorough DNA analysis proved that the new species is the first Atlantic-dwelling member of its genus, making it truly unique.

Although the scientists are as yet unclear as to just why male Tosanoides are so uncommonly coloured, they nevertheless agree that these dazzling denizens of the deep are a testament to the twilight zone’s status as a unique ecosystem that’s bursting with life, and a wonderfully bright reminder that there are still vast ocean habitats that are yet unexplored.

Image credit to: LemonTYK