Research published in the Journal of Fish Biology describes two new species of pancake batfishes (Halieutichthys intermedius and H. bispinosus). They live in, or partially in, the area where oil has impacted the Gulf of Mexico. According to John Sparks, curator of Ichthyology at the American Museum of Natural History, “One of the fishes that we describe is completely restricted to the oil spill area.”
The other one’s habitat includes part of the same area affected by the oil disaster. Researchers initially had the idea to see if there were similar species because they had noticed variations between samples stored in museum jars. Prasanta Chabaraty decided to venture out into the Gulf to collect samples. From the new samples and further investigation, it was discovered there were actually an additional two species rather than just the one.
The species are distinguished by:
The pancake batfishes typically live in deep, perpetually dark waters, but these recently described ones live in shallower waters. Pancake batfishes are a type of anglerfish, but instead of using a body part as a lure, they release a chemical attractant to draw prey closer.
The research findings are yet another example of new species discovered that are living in a state of vulnerability due to ongoing habitat damage. It is assumed there are many species still undiscovered and as habitats are disrupted, the species there will be dislocated or eliminated. Some species have actually been discovered when they are no longer alive, preserved in museums. Last year two bat species were discovered on the shelves of the Smithsonian.
The research team included John Sparks, Hsuan-Ching Ho in Taipei, Taiwan and Prosanta Chakrabarty of LSU.
Image Credit: Ho, Chakrabarty & Sparks (2010)
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