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Deep sea fish named in world top ten new species


May 23 2011 Lewis Smith


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Louisiana pancake batfish

Prosanta Chakrabarty (Louisiana State University, USA)

A bizarre hopping fish has been named by scientists as one of the top ten new species discoveries of the year.

Pancake batfish live in deep water in the Gulf of Mexico and appear to hop on arm-like fins as they move around the bottom of the sea.

The rarely seen fish were thought to comprise just a single species but close analysis by researchers revealed that there are three types.

One of the two newly named fish, the Louisiana pancake batfish, Halieutichthys intermedius, has now been named among the top ten new species of 2010 by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University, in the US, and an international committee of taxonomists.

"If we are still finding new species of fishes in the Gulf, imagine how much diversity, especially microdiversity, is out there that we do not know about,” said John Sparks, curator of ichthyology at the American Museum of Natural History, and one of the scientists who made the discovery.

Pancake batfish get their name from the flatness of their bodies and the clumsy way they propel themselves along the seabed has been likened to watching “a bat crawling”.

The fish prey on invertebrates and as a type of anglerfish they have lures to tempt their meals within striking range. However, instead of using luminescent lure the fish excretes a chemical lure from its dorsal fin.

Pancake batfish are found in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic coast from Louisiana to North Carolina but H. intermedius is only found in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s entire range falls within the area affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and it remains unclear how it has been affected by the disaster.

Other discoveries named as the top ten new species for 2010 include a sharp-toothed leech which was first found up the nose of a girl who has been bathing in Peru. The leech is less than two inches long but its huge teeth earned it the name Tyrannobdella rex – meaning tyrant leech king.

The rest of the top ten featured a bacterium that eats iron-oxide and was found on the rust from RMS Titanic, a luminescent mushroom from Brazil, a jumping cockroach from South Africa, an arboreal monitor lizard from the Philippines, a type of antelope first seen by scientists in a West African bushmeat market, an aquatic mushroom in Oregan, US, a cricket that is the sole pollinator of a rare orchid on the island of Reuinion, and a spider from Madegascar with superstrong silk.

Dr Mary Liz Jameson, of Wichita State University, chaired the committee which selected the ten and said: “Each of these amazing species discoveries tells a story about our planet; they are pieces of the puzzle that help us to understand how all of the components of life on Earth work together.”



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