Have scientists discovered three new species of fish key to the UAE's reefs?

Scientists believe they have discovered three potential new species of tiny, colourful fish that are the foundation to the UAEs coral reefs.

The bottom-dwelling fish are so small as to be imperceptible and evaded previous surveys of Gulf reef fish, a conference at New York Abu Dhabi heard on Monday.

But the diminutive marine life, known as cryptobenthic fishes, are a diverse bunch that can account for up to 60 per cent of fish eaten in reefs.

Genetic testing will confirm whether new species have been identified. The study found an additional four species previously unseen in UAE waters.

The species were discovered during research on adaptation to the hot waters of the Arabian Gulf, where water temperatures are the most extreme on the planet. Gulf temperatures range from 16°C to 36°C, making it a favoured destination for scientists studying the potential impact of the worlds warming oceans

Biologists anaesthetised small patches of the reef with clove oil under a plastic cover to take stock of the reefs biodiversity.

Tiny fish fell out of the reefs nooks and crannies.

The potential new species found in the UAE's coral reefs. Courtesy Jordan M Casey

A total of 44 cryptobenthic species were found in the Gulf of Oman. Of these, just 21 were found in the Arabian Gulf, where water temperatures are more extreme.

The slender fish are no larger than 40 millimetres and weigh less than two grams. They feed on diatoms, algae and micro invertebrates and despite their importance to reef life,....

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