Bouncing, "Psychedelic" Fish Is Declared a New Species

By Eliza Strickland | February 27, 2009 10:01 am

psychedelic fishA 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].

Related Content:
80beats: Built-In Mirrors Help Spookfish See in the Dark Ocean Depths
DISCOVER: Splendor in the Dark, how fish glow
Discoblog: Believe It When You See It: Fish With a See-Through Head

Image: David Hall/

  • UsedpcGames

    wow, awesome

  • David Sulik

    If this is a new species that bounces along the bottom I suggest in be called the 0o9-Stockmarket Fish. Shhhhh the drugs that the bank leaders are on is a secret.

  • Drew F

    So now we have lobe-finned, ray-finned, and jet propulsion-finned fish.
    Crazy world.

  • Jumblepudding

    Evolution is more creative than Jim Henson

  • Matt Tarditti

    OK…so first we have “crazy psychedelic bouncy fish” guy. And now this…

    New plan for 2009:
    Step 1 – Breed fish together to create “crazy bouncy transparent head fish with psychedelic barrel eyes”.
    Step 2 – Awesomeness achieved.

  • errol d. wall

    the beauty of nature~

  • cacs

    I wonder what evolutionary advantage the bounce gives this creature, and if the males and females are equally adept bouncers. Maybe it’s a mating ploy. Reminds me of the quote in the beginning of Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby: “Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her;/ If you can bounce high, bounce for her too, / Till she cry “Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover, I must have you!”

  • Eliza Strickland

    What a wonderful quote!

  • ForestWander Nature Photography

    Very cool!

    I bet there are hundreds or even thousands more yet to be discovered.

    The ocean is one of the frontiers yet to be explored completely!


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