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S. splendidus is one of only two vertebrate species known to have blue colouring because of cellular pigment, the other being the closely related psychedelic mandarin (S. picturatus). The name "cyanophore" was proposed for the blue chromatophores, or pigment-containing and light-reflecting cells. In all other known cases, the colour blue is structural, as it comes from thin-film interference from piles of flat, thin and reflecting purine crystals. The mandarinfish has a body shape similar to a goby, though this is the only resemblance between the two. The vivid coloration sports a bright blue background, with swirly orange stripes and a blue-greenish face with bold blue stripes. The large pelvic fins are used for 'walking' on the seafloor and are often mistakenly seen as the pectoral fins. The real pectorals are located almost at the center and are nearly transparent, with a tinge of bright blue. Stripes continue onto the second dorsal fin, the anal fins and on part of the tail, the rest of which is striped in vibrant orange and blue. The dorsal fin, which is exceptionally tall in males, has a striking orange-and blue design as well. The eyes are usually red with black pupils. Different varieties sport different markings and colors. The green mandarin is the fish that has been described. The red mandarin is the same species, but its pelvic fins and what would be orange is red. In some rare cases, the entire dragonet is red with black stripes. The spotted mandarin is light...
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