Tathra "mystery fish" breakthrough

The fish found on Tathra Beach earlier this year.
The fish found on Tathra Beach earlier this year.

WHILE the identity of Tathra’s “mystery fish” is yet to be finalised, an expert has recently made a breakthrough on the case.

The Australian Museum sent the fish to Japanese ichthyologist Dr Atsushi Fukui, who confirmed that the larva is definitely a species of Laeops.  

He stated however that it is not possible to confirm which species it is because the "species composition of Laeops is not clear in NSW".  

He stated that more time is required to identify the larva.

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).

Mr McGrouther referred the BDN 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,” he said.

Mr McGrouther said he sent Dr Fukui adult samples of Laeops to help with his inquiry.

“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.”

The fish story attracted plenty of attention through the BDN’s 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.


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