Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New Batfish Species Discovered

Did you ever think there could be good news related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill?  No?  I didn't either.  Until now.

Two previously unknown species of bottom-dwelling fish have been discovered living in the Gulf of Mexico, in the exact same area affected by the BP oil spill. 

The fish are called "pancake batfish" and are so named because of the way they clumsily "walk" along the sea bottom.  Their manner of walking looks similar to a bat crawling.  The fish prefer to stay in the deepest parts of the sea and, thus, are rarely seen. 

Pancake batfish have round, flat bodies with giant heads and mouths that can be thrust forward.  Arm-like fins are used to "walk" along the sea floor and they can excrete a fluid from a modified dorsal fin to lure prey.

John Sparks of the American Museum of Natural History in New York issued a statement Thursday, July 8, 2010, "One of the fishes that we describe is completely restricted to the oil spill area.  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."

Sparks and his colleagues named the species Halieutichthys intermedius and H. bispinosus.  A third already known species, H. aculeatus, lives only in waters affected by the spill.  Until now, the three species had been considered a single species but enough differences were found to alert researchers they were dealing with more than a single species.

To see a photo of the new batfish species, check out this article.

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