A bizarre fish discovered off the coast of an Indonesian island has officially been declared a new species, and given a name that researchers say celebrates its oddity: Histiophryne psychedelica. The creature, a type of frogfish, has beige and pink stripes swirling away from its eyes, and has leg-like fins on both sides of its body. But researchers writing in the journal Copeia say the psychedelic fish uses those fins in a form of locomotion never before seen in fish.
When the fish was first spotted by scuba divers off the coast of Ambon island last year, the divers described it moving away from them in a series of short hops, its pelvic fins pushing it off the sea bed with each bounce. “The overall impression” says the Copeia research paper, was of “an inflated rubber ball bouncing along the bottom” [BBC News].
The fish, which was confirmed as a new species after a morphological study and a genetic analysis, moves by using its springy fins in tandem with a miniature jet propulsion system. Each time the newly identified species strikes the seafloor, it uses its fins to push off, expelling water from tiny gill openings on its sides to jettison its body forward. With tail curled tightly to one side –which limits the ability to steer – it appears to bounce haphazardly across the ocean floor [Discovery News].
As for its freaky color pattern, so reminescent of clothing in the 1960s, lead researcher Ted Pietsch say it probably evolved to help the fish blend in among the colorful, venomous corals on the seafloor. “The Psychedelic Frogfish probably joins the long list of dishonest and harmless animals that have evolved to mimic the beauty of venomous animals,” said Leo Smith, assistant curator of fishes at The Field Museum in Chicago. “Pietsch and colleagues nailed this when they suggested that it looked just like the venomous corals found in its environment” [LiveScience].
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Image: David Hall/seaphotos.com