Snapshots of the single Holacanthus ciliaris (Queen angelfish) recorded by the Spot the Alien Fish campaign for the first time from Maltese waters
The Spot the Alien Fish campaign, coordinated by Prof. Alan Deidun at the Department of Geosciences within the Faculty of Science, has recently been alerted to the capture of a single individual of Holacanthus ciliaris, commonly known as Queen angelfish, for the first time from Maltese waters.
H. ciliaris is a marine, non-migratory resident of coral reefs of sub-tropical and tropical regions of the western and central Atlantic, at depths ranging between 1m and 70m, with its native range extending from Bermuda, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the north and to Brazil and St. Paul’s Rocks in the south. The species is a common sight in waters around the Bahamas and Florida (and is, to date, known from the Mediterranean from just one record, made in Trogir Bay within central swathes of the Eastern Adriatic Sea in 2001.
The species is commonly caught in traps when destined to marine aquarium trade and is not important for human consumption, although it is edible. Adults of the species are known to have a varied diet, which consists mainly of sponges, algae and bryozoans, with juveniles of the species known to pick parasites off other fish individuals.
The taxonomic identity of the fish species in question has also been confirmed by the Spot the Alien Fish campaign team through results emerging from genetic analyses conducted on tissue extracted from the same fish individual.
Yet another Holacanthus species – Holacanthus africanus (Guinea angelfish) – a close relative of the Queen angelfish and native of tropical waters off western Africa, was also recorded for the first time from Maltese waters and from the entire Mediterranean Basin by the Spot the Alien Fish campaign team way back in 2017.
The same citizen science campaign, which is supported by the International Ocean Institute (IOI) and by the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), has managed to document the arrival of numerous Non-Indigenous Species (NIS) to Maltese waters since its inception in 2017.
Further information about the Spot the Alien Fish campaign and its sister Spot the Alien campaign can be gleaned online. This interesting finding has been submitted for publication by Prof. Alan Deidun and his collaborators to a peer-reviewed journal.