Thursday, April 3, 2008

Crawling ‘Glass’ Fish Sighted in Indonesian Waters

A fish that would rather crawl into crevices than swim, and that may be able to see in the same way that humans do, could represent an entirely unknown family of fishes, says a University of Washington fish expert.

The fish, sighted in Indonesian waters off Ambon Island, has tan- and peach-colored zebra-striping, and rippling folds of skin that obscure its fins, making it look like a glass sculpture that Dale Chihuly might have dreamed up. But far from being hard and brittle like glass, the bodies of these fist-sized fish are soft and pliable enough to slip and slide into narrow crevices of coral reefs. It’s probably part of the reason that they've typically gone unnoticed – until now.

The individuals are undoubtedly anglerfishes, says Ted Pietsch, a UW professor of aquatic and fishery sciences who has published 150 scholarly articles and several books on anglerfishes and is the world's leading authority on them. In the last 50 years scientists have described only five new families of fishes and none of them were even remotely related to anglerfishes, Pietsch says.

Husband and wife team Buck and Fitrie Randolph, along with dive guide Toby Fadirsyair, found and photographed an individual Jan. 28 in Ambon harbor. A second adult has since been seen and two more – small, and obviously juveniles – were spotted March 26, off Ambon. One of the adults laid a mass of eggs, just spotted Tuesday.

The Randolphs are part-owners of Maluku Divers, a land-based dive facility in Ambon City. Toby Fadirsyair, who works for Maluku Divers, said he may have seen something similar 10 or 15 years ago but the coloring was different.

Full article with photo

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