New sea bream species discovered

A new species of sea bream – which is being named Acanthopagrus oconnorae – has been found by a scientist in the Red Sea.

Dr Donal Bradley, distinguished professor and former vice-president for research at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) made the discovery while fishing in mangrove habitat off the shore of the university.

The “new” fish is distinguished from other bream species by having a more shallowly sloping forehead, a distinct black patch on the rearward edge of the gill cover, a more yellowish pectoral fin and paler body colour.

Bradley sent a fin clipping from the fish to the KAUST Red Sea Research Center (RSRC) for genetic analysis, prompting a search for another fish of its kind. Eventually, Bradley caught another one, which enabled the scientists to conduct a detailed study of bream specimens, including direct comparison of their physical morphology and genetics with others from the region.

Marine scientist and RSRC director Mike Berumen confirmed that the fish is a distinct species with its closest relative, the Wandering Sea Bream, which inhabits long stretches of the Indian Ocean coast of South Africa and Mozambique.

“The proposed scientific name for the species, Acanthopagrus oconnorae, honours my mother, Mrs. Winefride Bradley (née O’Connor), on the occasion of her 90th birthday. The proposed common name, Bev Bradley’s Bream, honours my wife,” Bradley said.

One theory as to why this fish eluded identification until now is that it favours shallow water in and around mangrove stands, which is not a regular target for fisheries activity or scientific diving.