Key Info

  • Position Title
    Chadwick Biodiversity Fellow
  • Section
    Ichthyology Collection
    Branch
    Life and Geosciences
    Division
    Australian Museum Research Institute
  • On Social Media

We would like to welcome, Dr Yi-Kai Tea as the Australian Museum’s Chadwick Biodiversity Fellow. He recently completed his PhD at the University of Sydney on the systematics and evolutionary history of coral reef fishes, focusing on wrasses (family Labridae) from the genus Cirrhilabrus (fairy wrasses) and Pseudojuloides (pencil wrasses).

He completed his Honours degree in 2018 on the historical biogeography of the anti-tropical genus Microcanthus, making extensive use of the Australian Museum’s fish and tissue reference collection. Kai’s research interests combine the use of cutting-edge next generation sequencing techniques with traditional methods of morphology to better understand the evolutionary history of coral reef fishes, in particular groups that have intractable taxonomy and/or phylogenetic relationships. In doing so, he has revised the taxonomy of several coral reef fish groups, in addition to having described over twenty species as new to science.

His research has been featured on the cover of several international journals including Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Journal of Biogeography, Ecology, ZooKeys, and Ichthyology & Herpetology, as well as mainstream media outlets such as the New York Times, Forbes, and CNN. He is passionate about biodiversity and the importance of taxonomy, and communicates his research with photography, blogs, and science communication on public platforms such as twitter.

While at the AM Kai will continue to work on his first love, Wrasse (Labrid) taxonomy and systematics. The opportunity to work with the Ichthyology collection means Kai can expand his current interest in mesophotic (30 – 150 m depth) fishes, work on describing new fish species from other groups such as Gobies and develop projects relating to upcoming and previous expeditions from the RV Investigator and RV Falkor.

Please see below for links to Yi-Kai's contributions:

Flying without wings blog

Fairy Wrasses and Fairy tales seminar

Fairy Wrasses and Fairy Tales blog

One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish blog

Angels in disguise blog

Boomeranging around Australia ! blog


The fairy wrasses are among the most diverse of the Labridae, with their 65 species accounting for nearly 10% of the family. Photo credit: Yi-Kai Tea.
The fairy wrasses are among the most diverse of the Labridae, with their 65 species accounting for nearly 10% of the family. Image: Yi-Kai Tea
© Yi-Kai Tea

The most taxonomically complete phylogenetic tree of the fairy wrasses yet, with nearly 80% of all species represented. Photo credit: Yi-Kai Tea, Rudie Kuiter, Michael Hammer, Benjamin Victor, Gerry Allen, and the late John Randall.
The most taxonomically complete phylogenetic tree of the fairy wrasses yet, with nearly 80% of all species represented. Image: Yi-Kai Tea, Rudie Kuiter, Michael Hammer, Benjamin Victor, Gerry Allen, and the late John Randall.
© Yi-Kai Tea, Rudie Kuiter, Michael Hammer, Benjamin Victor, Gerry Allen, and the late John Randall.

Selected publications:

  • Tea YK, A Najeeb, J Rowlett, & L Rocha. 2022. Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa (Teleostei, Labridae), a new species of fairy wrasse from the Maldives, with comments on the taxonomic identity of C. rubrisquamis and C. wakanda. ZooKeys, 1088, 65–80.

  • Tea YK, NL Liew, JW Soong, & H Barlow. 2021. On the use of the showy mistletoe Helixanthera cylindrica (Santalales: Loranthaceae) as a nectar source for butterflies in the Malay Peninsula, South-east Asia. Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society, 75, 297–301.

  • Yashiro T, YK Tea, C Van Der Wal, T Nozaki, N Nizumoto, S Hellemans, K Matsuura, & N Lo. 2021. Enhanced heterozygosity from male meiotic chromosome chains is superseded by hybrid female asexuality in termites. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118, e2009533118

  • Tea YK, GR Allen, CHR Goatley, AC Gill, & BW Frable. 2021. Redescription of Conniella apterygia Allen and its reassignment in the genus Cirrhilabrus Temminck & Schlegel (Teleostei: Labridae), with comments on cirrhilabrin pelvic morphology. Zootaxa, 5061, 493–509.

  • Gill AC, KES Sorgon, V Brun, & YK Tea. 2021. New records and redescription of Labracinus atrofasciatus (Herre, 1933) (Teleostei: Pseudochromidae). Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 69, 438–447.

  • Tea YK, JW Soong, EP Beaver, & DJ Lohman. 2021. Kleptophamacophagy: Milkweed butterflies scratch and imbibe from Apocynaceae-feeding caterpillars. Ecology, 10.1002/ECY.3532.

  • Gill AC, Pogonoski JJ, Johnson J, & YK Tea. 2021. Three new species of Australian anthiadine fishes, with comments on the monophyly of Pseudanthias Bleeker (Teleostei: Serranidae). Zootaxa, 4496, 49–82.

  • Tea YK, Xu X, DiBattista JD, Lo N, Cowman PF, Ho SYW. 2021 Phylogenomic analysis of concatenated ultraconserved elements reveals the recent evolutionary radiation of the fairy wrasses (Teleostei: Labridae: Cirrhilabrus). Systematic Biology. https://doi.org/10.1093/sysbio/syab012

  • Tea YK, Allen GR, & M Dailami. 2021. Redescription of Cirrhilabrus solorensis Bleeker, with description of two species of fairy wrasses (Teleostei: Labridae: Cirrhilabrus). Ichthyology & Herpetology, 109, 669–684. DOI: 10.1643/i2021022.

  • Tea YK, JDD DiBattista, N. Lo, PF Coman. & SYW Ho. 2020. Fairy wrasses and fairy tales: Phylogenomic analysis of UCEs resolves the recent evolutionary radiation of the labrid genus Cirrhilabrus. Systematic Biology, syab012.

  • Tea YK, BD Greene, JL Earle, & AC Gill. 2020. Two new species of pencil wrasses (Teleostei: Labridae: Pseudojuloides) from Micronesia and the Marquesan Islands. Copeia,108, 679–691.

  • Tea YK, AC Gill, & H Senou. 2020. Two new species of Pseudojuloides from Western Australia and Southern Japan, with a redescription of Pseudojuloides elongatus (Teleostei: Labridae). Copeia, 108, 551–569.

  • Tea YK, JPA Hobbs, F. Vitelli, JDD DiBattista, SYW Ho, & N. Lo. 2020. Angels in disguise: sympatric hybridization in the marine angelfishes is widespread and occursbetween deeply divergent lineages. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B, 287:20201459. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2020.1459

  • Tea YK & AC Gill. 2020, Systematic reappraisal of the anti-equatorial fish genus Microcanthus (Teleostei: Microcanthidae), with redescription of Microcanthus strigatus Cuvier and resurrection of Microcanthus joyceae Whitley. Zootaxa, 4802, 41–60.

  • Tea YK, JW Soong, CW Gan, & DJ Lohman. 2020. Beachgoing butterflies: marine puddling on black sand beaches of Tangkoko Batuangus Nature Reserve, North Sulawesi. Journal of the Lepidopterist Society, 74, 127–131.

  • A Jain & YK Tea. 2020. Mass emergence of the tropical swallowtail moth Lyssa zampa (Lepidoptera: Uraniidae: Uraniinae) in Singapore, with notes on its partial life history. Tropical Lepidoptera Research, 30, 20–27.

  • Tea YK, RL Pyle, & LA Rocha. 2020. A new species of fairy wrasse (Teleostei: Labridae: Cirrhilabrus) from mesophotic coral ecosystems of the Philippines. Copeia, 108, 91– 102 .

  • Tea YK, BD Greene, & P Plantard. 2020. Notes on fishes of the mesophotic reefs of Réunion Island. Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation, 35, 1–7.

  • Tea YK, HT Pinheiro, B Shepherd, & LA Rocha. 2019. Cirrhilabrus wakanda, a new species of fairy wrasse from mesophotic reefs of Zanzibar, Tanzania, Africa (Teleostei: Labridae). Zookeys, 863, 85–96.

  • Tea YK, C Van Der Wal, WB Ludt, AC Gill, N Lo, & SYW Ho. 2019. Boomeranging around Australia: Historical biogeography and population genomics of the antiequatorial fish Microcanthus strigatus (Teleostei: Microcanthidae). Molecular Ecology, 28: 3771–3785. doi:10.1111/mec.15172.

  • Frable BW & YK Tea. 2019. A new species of damselfish (Teleostei: Pomacentridae: Pomacentrus) from Nosy Faho, Madagascar. Copeia, 107, 323–331.

  • Tea YK, AC Gill, & H Senou. 2019. Chromis tingting, a new species of damselfish from mesophotic reefs of southern Japan (Teleostei: Pomacentridae). Zootaxa, 4586, 249– 260.

  • Tea YK, BW Frable, & C Van Der Wal. 2018. Redescription and phylogenetic placement of Cirrhilabrus sanguineus Cornic, 1987 (Teleostei: Labridae), with first documentation of the female form. Zootaxa, 4526, 358–372.

  • Tea YK, BW Frable, & AC Gill. 2018. Cirrhilabrus cyanogularis, a new species of fairy wrasse from the Philippines and Indonesia (Teleostei: Labridae). Zootaxa, 4418, 577–587.

  • Gill AC, YK Tea, & H Senou. 2017. Navigobius kaguya, a new species of ptereleotrine goby (Teleostei: Gobiidae) from the West Pacific. Zootaxa, 4347, 371–380.

  • Tea YK & AC Gill. 2017. Cirrhilabrus shutmani, a new species of fairy wrasse from the Babuyan Islands, northern Philippines (Teleostei: Labridae). Zootaxa, 4341, 77– 88.

  • Gill AC, YK Tea, & H Senou. 2017. Pseudanthias tequila, a new species of anthiadine serranid from the Ogasawara and Mariana Islands. Zootaxa, 4341, 67–76.

  • Walsh F, YK Tea, & H Tanaka. 2017. Cirrhilabrus efatensis, a new species of wrasse (Teleostei: Labridae) from Vanuatu, South Pacific Ocean. Journal of The Ocean Science Foundation, 26, 68–79.

  • Gill AC, YK Tea, & H Senou. 2016. Plectranthias takasei, a new species of anthiadine fish from southern Japan (Teleostei: Serranidae). Zootaxa, 4205, 349–356.

  • Tea YK & AC Gill. 2016. Synchiropus sycorax, a new species of dragonet from the Philippines (Teleostei: Callionymidae). Zootaxa, 4173, 85–93.

  • Tea YK, H Senou, & BD Greene. 2016. Cirrhilabrus isosceles, a new species of wrasse (Teleostei: Labridae) from the Ryukyu Archipelago and the Philippines, with notes on the C. lunatus complex. Journal of The Ocean Science Foundation, 21, 18–37.