Two New Fish Species Described Live in Gulf Oil Area

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:

  • Size
  • Shape
  • Tubercles (round nodules or growths) on the body
  • Dark bands on the pectoral fin (or lack of them)
  • Pigmentation patterns

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)

64 comments

Naomi M.
Naomi Miskimins4 years ago

Thanks of the info

SuSanne P.

ThankX hun. I also agree with John Van Hise and Janice P. SUPER DUPER GREEEEEN STARS TO YOU BOTH!

Elizabeth M.
Elizabeth M.4 years ago

Interesting that these pancake bat fish have survived (so far!).

Ann Eastman
Ann Eastman5 years ago

"Some species have actually been discovered when they are no longer alive, preserved in museums." What does that say about our species?

Janice P.
Janice P.5 years ago

I'm with John Van Hise. Who knows how many undiscovered species we have, but we may never see, because they will be killed off by oil disasters before we have that opportunity. It is a very serious situation. What if some of these species had the capability to cure some of our most terrible and life-ending diseases?

Dixie L.
Dixie L.5 years ago

They are beautiful.

John Van Hise
John Van Hise5 years ago

what will be the long-term effect of the "oil dispersant" which has caused the oil to form small, heavier-than-water globules of poison that will roll around on the sea floor for, what, forever? hope the batfishes like it, because that's what they will be eating. has anyone determined what caused the deaths of over 200 penguins and 50 right whales that washed up on the beaches of south america recently? bp would say it's just a natural weekly occurrence, probably old age.

Robert Dean
Robert Dean5 years ago

Oil Corporations are Garbage corporations and the only thing they are good for is destroying the planet. They should be destroyed.

Liz Bitzelberger
Liz Bitzelberger5 years ago

WOW. THANKS FOR THE INFO. HOPE EVERYTHING SURVIVES

charmaine c.
Charmaine C.5 years ago

Big oil has got to be stopped. Can you imagine how many species Texaco's Amazon fouling has destroyed before we could even identify them, let alone the destruction of the magnificent Gulf under attack at the moment! Monstrously irresponsible!