Tasmanian scientists are excited about a recent discovery. A second population of one of the world’s most rare fish, the tiny red handfish, was discovered and there is hope of putting a breeding program in place that will increase the species chance of survival. The tiny red handfish is known for its unique gait, in which is walks on modified fins across the seabed. It is found only off of Apple Isle’s southeast coast.
The last thought regarding the tiny red handfish was that 10-20 were remaining at Frederich Henry Bay, however; after divers from the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), received a tip, there is new hope that more of the fish exist. The divers immediately launched a search mission using third-hand GPS coordinates after they received a tip-off from a member of the public.
After spending two days searching the ocean floor, they almost gave up. Luckily they kept going because they soon found several of the fish.
“Just by chance, I saw the end of a tail of a red handfish hidden under some algae and that was it,” IMAS diver Antonia Cooper said.
Tucked away under some seaweed nearby, there were seven more fish found. It’s thought that there are 20-40 more of these fish located at the undisclosed location. Evidently, while handfish are very large, their lethargic nature makes them difficult to find.
“You have to pretty much lift up the individual piece of seaweed that they’re sitting under to find them,” Cooper said.’They feel very exposed when you move their piece of seaweed and hug the bottom.”
Back in the 1800s, red handfish were considered common, however; over time they were pushed to the brink of extinction by habitat degradation and low breeding rates. This type of fish tends to stay within the same area and rarely ventures outside of an area the size of a tennis court. They are typically no bigger than 10 cm in size. They are an interesting looking creature, almost cartoon-like, with two red hands sticking out the side of their body and two red feet at the bottom. The fin is located front and center on their head and they have a red nose and mouth. Believe it or not, they are cute and don’t appear to be intimidating at all.
The discovery has caused excitement amongst researchers and they are optimistic that there are more red handfish out there.
“It was considered too risky to remove any egg masses or individuals because it could be the last population,” said Cooper.’There’s going to be a re-discussion about breeding.”
The spotted handfish is similar to the red handfish and it is being bred in captivity.
Commenters had a lot to say about the discovery and one in particular mentioned the many discoveries that we have yet to find…
“Why are we tryin’ to go to Mars when this planet is laden with novelties waiting to be discovered.”
Because this type of fish is so unique looking, it would certainly take someone by surprise if they were seeing it for the first time.