New Species of Snailfish Discovered in Bering Sea

Posted on August 29, 2016

Mischievous Snailfish

Several new species of snailfish have been discovered on the seafloor of the Bering Sea. They were discovered by Alaska Fisheries Science Center biologist Jay Orr during stock assessment surveys in the Aleutian Islands.

There are over 350 known snailfish speces. The small fish species resemble tadpoles. The Mischievous Snailfish (Careproctus faunus) is pictured above and the Comic Snailfish is pictured below. Both were discovered by Orr who has discovered over twenty snailfish species.

Orr says snailfishes are his favorite species to discover. He says, "My interest was sparked in 1997 when I collected one specimen that represented a new genus, and several that I thought were a known species out of their range. When I examined one of these closely, I found it was a brand new species. And so was the second, and the third, and finally, a fourth newly discovered species. That's what started me down this road."

Orr also says, "They are challenging for taxonomists. Because they don't have scales, they get damaged easily. In the past, biologists might just call all snailfish 'snailfish,' instead of attempting to identify them."

The article about the snailfish published by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center says the small fish will sometimes get into the shell of a king crab and deposit eggs in its gill cavity. This results in perfectly aerated snailfish eggs but the egg mass can harm the king crab's gills.

Comic Snailfish

Photo: Jay Orr/NOAA

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