Tathra's mystery fish 'unusual, but unlikely a new species'

THERE is still no word on the identity of Tathra’s “mystery fish”, but an expert who examined it told Fairfax Media he didn’t believe it to be a new species. Click here for the previous article

Don Cotterill of Tathra gave the odd-looking fish found by his friend John Chapman on Tathra Beach earlier this year to the Australian Museum’s ichthyology collection manager Mark McGrouther.

This was after staff from Taronga Zoo failed to identify it from a picture (BDN 15/8).

“It was an interesting fish and an unusual find, but I doubt very much it’s a new species,” Mr McGrouther said.

“The story created a lot of interest among fishos, but I don’t believe it will turn out to be anything earth shattering.

“I’m not quite sure why the story went viral.”

Mr McGrouther referred to an update to the original entry he made on his Australian Museum blog.

Retired Australian Museum larval fish expert Jeff Leis suggested it was “most likely a species of Laeops”.

“Two species in the genus are currently known from Australian waters; the Smallhead Flounder, Laeops parviceps and Kitahara's Flounder, L. kitaharae.”

The museum sent the fish to Japanese ichthyologist Dr Atsushi Fukui.

In his update, Mr McGrouther said he recently sent Dr Fukui adult samples of Laeops to help with his inquiry and is still waiting for his report.

The fish story attracted plenty of attention through the Bega District News’ Facebook and Twitter feeds, with readers coming up with lots of theories about its origins.

Many readers believed the fish to actually be an anglerfish, a deep sea Lophiiformes that has the same type of growth on its head featured on Mr Cotterill’s mystery fish.

A marine biology student at the University of New South Wales, Chris Coleman, said he thought an anglerfish caught in an oceanic jet stream had found its way to Australia’s East Coast.

Curious fisherman will have to wait and see what Dr Fukui comes up with.

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