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Friday, July 9, 2010

Fish Found Walking in Gulf Spill


Two new species of pancake batfish, which walk using their arm-like fins, have been found at the site of the Gulf oil spill, according to a study published in the Journal of Fish Biology.

Both fish live in waters either partially or fully encompassed by the Deepwater Horizon spill.

“One of the fishes that we describe is completely restricted to the oil spill area,” says John Sparks, curator of Ichthyology at the AMNH. “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.”

According to a press release issued by the museum, pancake batfishes are members of the anglerfish family Ogcocephalidae, a group of about 70 species of flat bottom-dwellers that often live in deep, perpetually dark waters. Pancake batfishes have enormous heads and mouths that can thrust forward. This, combined with their ability to cryptically blend in with their surroundings, gives them an advantage for capturing prey.

They use their stout, arm-like fins to walk awkwardly along the substrate; their movements have been described as "grotesque," resembling a walking bat. As most anglerfishes, batfishes have a dorsal fin that is modified into a spine or lure, although their lure excretes a fluid to reel in prey instead of bio-illuminating.

Sparks says the new "discoveries underscore the potential loss of undocumented biodiversity that a disaster of this scale may portend."

(Other species of fish walk too. The below video, for example, shows Australia's spotted handfish.)