Newly Discovered Pancake Batfish Lives in Gulf Oil Spill Region

Posted on July 8, 2010

Batfish Oil Spill


A newly discovered species of batfish, Halieutichthys intermedius, lives in the waters completely encompassed by the Gulf oil spill. New research published in the Journal of Fish Biology describes two new species of pancake batfishes (Halieutichthys intermedius (pictured above) and H. bispinosus) and re-describes another (H. aculeatus), all of which live in waters either partially or fully encompassed by the recent oil spill. The researechers say H. intermedius does not have a known population outside of the Gulf of Mexico.

"One of the fishes that we describe is completely restricted to the oil spill area," says John Sparks, curator of Ichthyology at the American Museum of Natural History. "If we are still finding new species of fishes in the Gulf, imagine how much diversity-especially microdiversity-is out there that we do not know about. These discoveries underscore the potential loss of undocumented biodiversity that a disaster of this scale may portend."

Pancake batfishes are members of the anglerfish family Ogcocephalidae, a group of about 70 species of flat bottom-dwellers that often live in deep, perpetually dark waters. Pancake batfishes have enormous heads and mouths that can thrust forward. They are also able to cryptically blend in with their surroundings, which gives them an advantage for capturing prey. The pancake batfish "walk" using their stout, arm-like fins. They are said to resemble a walking bat when they move.

Photo: Ho, Chakrabarty & Sparks