New Species of Scorpionfish Discovered Near Caribbean Island of Curacao

Posted on July 21, 2016

tellate Scorpionfish Scorpaenodes barrybrowni

Scientists have discovered a new species of scorpionfish in the deep-reef waters of the Caribbean island of Curacao. The fish lives too deep for scuba divers to find. It was found using the manned submersible Curasub.

The scorpionfish has been given the common name Stellate Scorpionfish and the scientific name, Scorpaenodes barrybrowni, in honor of Substation Curacao and freelance photographer Barry Brown. It is the deepest-living member of its genus in the western Atlantic Ocean. It is found at depths between 95 meters and 160 meters. It is distinguished from similar scorpionfishes by its distinctive bright orange-red colors, elongated fin rays, and DNA.

The new scorpion fish was found by Dr. Carole C. Baldwin, lead scientist of the Smithsonian's Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP), Ms. Diane Pitassy, also affiliated with the Smithsonian, and Dr. Ross Robertson, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The researchers expect more fish discoveries as exploration of deep reefs is only just beginning.

Baldwin says in a statement, "Fish specimens that are brought up from deep reefs only occasionally surface alive. When DROP scientists return to the surface in the Curasub with a living fish, Barry races it to his aquarium and begins to work his photographic magic."

Baldwin also says, "The 50-300 m tropical ocean zone is poorly studied - too deep for conventional SCUBA and too shallow to be of much interest to really deep-diving submersibles. The Curasub is providing scientists with the technology needed to remedy this gap in our knowledge of Caribbean reef biodiversity."

A research paper on the new scorpionfish was published here in the journal, ZooKeys.

Photo: Barry Brown