Thursday, July 22, 2010
July 22, 2010 : Psychedelic Fish
With a swirl of beige and peach stripes stretching from its blue eyes to its tail, the newly named Histiophryne psychedelica was initially discovered by scuba diving instructors working for a tour operator a year ago in shallow waters off Indonesia.
The operator contacted Ted Pietsch, lead author of a paper published in this month's edition of the journal Copeia, who submitted DNA work identifying the psychedelic fish as a new species.
Like other frogfish—a subset of anglerfish—H. psychedelica has leglike fins on both sides of its body.
But it has several traits not previously known among frogfish, wrote Pietsch, of the University of Washington.
Each time the fish strike the seabed, for instance, they push off with their fins and expel water from tiny gill openings to jet themselves forward. That and an off-centered tail cause them to bounce around in a bizarre, chaotic manner.
Mark Erdman, a senior adviser to the Conservation International's marine program, said, "I think people thought frogfishes were relatively well known, and to get a new one like this is really quite spectacular. ... It's a stunning animal."
The fish, which has a gelatinous, fist-size body covered with thick folds of skin that protect it from sharp-edged corals, also has a flat face with eyes directed forward, like humans, and a huge, yawning mouth.