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Most Unique of the New Fishes Discovered in 2010

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Fishes are the world’s most diverse group of vertebrates, with nearly 32,000 species known thus far and new ones being found at the rate of 2 per week.  Add to this an unbelievable range of bizarre lifestyles, and it becomes apparent that picking the “most unique” new fish is a difficult task (after all, some male Anglerfishes latch onto females with their teeth and remain fused to their mates for life…tough act to follow!).  But the following trio of fishes discovered (or first described) in 2010 is certainly in the running.

A Wood-Eating Catfish

First collected by a Nature Conservancy biologist in Peru’s Santa Ana River, the new Wood-Eating Armored Catfish is one of only 12 fishes known to consume such an odd diet.  Unlike termites, however, these catfishes do not actually digest wood.  Instead, they utilize the algae and tiny organisms living on its surface, and excrete the wood within a few hours.

Panaque Teeth The genus to which the new fish has been assigned, Panaque, contains 10 of the 12 known wood-eating fishes; several are highly-desired in the aquarium trade (please see photo).  Wood-Eating Catfishes are classified in the 800+ member family Loricariidae, which includes the popularly-kept Suckermouth or “Pleco” Catfishes.

The newest wood-eater reaches at least 26 inches in length, and with its massive fins flared is quite an impressive creature (please see article below).  In common with related species, it sports unique, spoon-shaped teeth that assist in scraping wood from fallen trees and submerged roots (please see photo).

Oil Spill Yields New Batfish

Ichthyologists (fish biologists) working in that area of the Gulf of Mexico affected by this year’s massive oil spill came up with 2 new Batfishes.  One of these seems restricted to the spill region, and so may be in serious jeopardy.

The discoveries caused quite a stir, as the area has been both intensely studied and heavily fished by commercial ships for decades.  The new species, Halieutichthys intermedius and H. aculeatus, held some surprises of their own – both inhabit shallow waters, whereas most of their 70 relatives dwell in the perpetually dark ocean Longnose Seabatdepths.  They sport typical batfish lures, used to attract prey, but also excrete a fluid that seems to help ensnare small fishes.  Related to the Anglerfishes, Batfishes “walk” across the sea floor and in doing so evoke the image of a bat out for a stroll (more-or-less!).

The Pink Handfish, Brachiopsilus dianthus

With only 4 specimens known, this startlingly-colored fish is the least studied of the 9 new Handfishes discovered last year.  Nine new species is quite a feat, as only 5 were known prior to 2010.

A mere 4 inches long, the Pink Handfish has thus far been found only in a single locale off Hobart, Tasmania.  Its other oddly-shaped and often brightly-colored relatives are also limited to the waters of southeastern Australia and Tasmania (please see article below).  The group is aptly named, as their pectoral fins, which help them move over the ocean’s floor, do indeed resemble human hands.

SnailfishA new and as yet unnamed ghostly white Snailfish was found in the South Pacific’s Peru-Chile Trench.  Amazingly, it lives 4 ½ miles below the ocean’s surface and endures water pressure of 10,000 pounds per square inch!

Further Reading

A New Wood-Eating Catfish: interview with discoverer and a great photo.

Video of a Batfish “walking”.

Nine New Handfishes: photos and more info

Please write in with your questions and comments. 

Thanks, until next time,

Frank Indiviglio

Panaque and Panaque Teeth images referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Neale Monks

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.