Discoveries of Rare Fish Gives Hope for the Future
Divers in Tasmania have discovered a family of the world’s rarest fish.
Until now, the only place in the world where red handfish were known to exist is on one 50m long reef in Tasmania’s Frederick Henry Bay. A recent underwater survey at this site found just eight red handfish, prompting scientists to estimate the reef probably housed around 40 of them. With such low numbers, it was feared that the species, typically 5 inches long, would die but events of last week paint a much better picture for this wonderful creature.
A member of the public reported seeing a red handfish on a neighbouring reef. A team of seven divers were soon on the spot and spent two days searching the area before making a discovery.
One of the team commented: “Just by chance, I saw the end of a tail of a red handfish hidden under some algae and that was it.” More sightings followed and it is now estimated that this second reef is home to the same number of fish, so the total population is estimated at around 80.
Stuart-Smith, who coordinates the annual survey project, said the new populations were likely to be genetically isolated because the red handfish is not built for long swims.
“If they are disturbed they can do a little burst, they will swim 50cm in a burst and then settle again,” he told Guardian Australia. “They waddle on their fins, they are just trudging along the bottom. In fact, you hardly ever see them actually moving.”
The creature belongs to the family of the anglerfish, along with 14 other species of handfish known to be alive now. (You have to go back to the 19th century, in the area around Australia’s Port Arthur, for the first reported sightings.)
Every different spot handfish has a unique pattern of their spots and they also have scales called denticles. This sandfish is a carnivore (meat-eater) and snacks on shrimps, amphipods, worms and other small fish.
Experts are reviewing the possibility of breeding red handfish – now it is known the wild population is large enough to cope with the capture of a few breeding pairs.
Elvie, Year 6