Labracinus atrofasciatus is a strikingly beautiful species of dottyback that is virtually unknown, and in fact so absent from the scientific literature that the species was just treated to a rare re-description. The original description of Labracinus atrofasciatus was based off of a single preserved specimen way back in 1933 and lacked information of the living coloration of this large, beautiful, and showy pseudochromid.
Recently a handful of unusual large red dottybacks were spotted at a fish market in Palawan, Philippines and these images and specimens made their way to pseudochromid taxonomy specialist Dr. Anthony Gill and colleagues who used this information to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of the black barred dottyback. The species is very similar to the common and aggressive Dampiera dottybacks of the Labracinus genus which only contains three species so far and they are all around six inches in the mature males with a mostly red coloration overall with unique patterns for each species, and high variability in L. lineatus especially.
Males of the black barred dottyback are mostly orange red overall with oblique bold black bars across the flanks and more defined across the the rear 70% of the fish with just a hint of a small black eye spot in the lower area of the soft dorsal fin. It’s this post-dorsal eye spot which ties Labracinus atrofasciatus to a photograph of a presumed female which is possibly the only image of a living black barred dottyback known to date.
The known geographic distribution of the black barred dottyback appears to coincide with that of several lesser known pseudochromid including Pseudochromis colei, P. eichleri, and Manonichthys scintilla suggesting that the Calamian Islands and northeast Palawan may constitute an area of endemism in this western part of the Philippines. It is likely that further surveys and investigation of the reef life in the region would probably yield discoveries of new and unknown species of many different lineages, and we’ll be here for it when these finds are shared with the world. [Raffles Bulletin]