Europe Malta CU – An exciting competition has brought about the discovery of a new fish species previous not seen in the seas around Malta. A competition known as “Spot the Alien Fish” which actively encouraged the participation of citizen scientists has led to the discovery of the white unicorn Naso annulatus (Quoy & Gaimard, 1825) with no prior sightings recorded from the whole of the Mediterranean Sea which covers an area in between North Africa and Southern Europe. The White Unicorn is usually native to the Eastern African seas of the Western Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific Ocean consisting of coasts of Japan, which extends all the way to the Hawaiian archipelago.
The role of citizen scientists has been visible in recent years particularly in environmental science, as many have made crucial contributions with data for researchers.
The species is a member of the Acanthuridae family, which includes surgeonfish, tangs and unicorn fishes and is commonly used as an ornamental species in aquariums.
The finding was the 1st record of the white unicorn is regarded a casual finding, as it is early days to draw any conclusions if the species has made a move to settle in the Mediterranean.
This resulted in researchers to draw the conclusion of the possibility of the fish showing up in Maltese waters could to either be due to a intentional aquarium release or, even due to a minor possibility of it being, due to a shipping-mediated arrival.
The Spot the Alien Fish campaign which commenced in 2019 was 1 of the 3 citizen science campaigns arranged by the Oceanography Malta Research Group from the Department of Geosciences at the Faculty of Science, with its recent finding with yet another landmark through the discovery of a new fish for the Mediterranean. Further research will be needed to determine if there is any new patterns in fish movement.