Fish With “Hands”
This is the appropriately named “Hand Fish”. It has hands and walks with them. Should fish have hands?
Using its fins to walk, rather than swim, along the ocean floor in an undated picture, the pink handfish is one of nine newly named species described in a recent scientific review of the handfish family.
Only four specimens of the elusive four-inch (ten-centimeter) pink handfish have ever been found, and all of those were collected from areas around the city of Hobart (map), on the Australian island of Tasmania.
The previously known spotted handfish, is found on sandy sediments at the bottom of Tasmania’s Derwent Estuary and adjoining bays. The fish use their fins to walk along the seabed, where they eat small invertebrates such as worms and crustaceans.
Handfish’s slow movements and tendencies to stay within tightly confined habitats would seem to make the fish easy targets for predators. But researchers think handfish have a secret weapon: a toxic skin that kills most attackers.
The red handfish, a previously known species, is listed as vulnerable in Australia, where it’s found only around the southern island state of Tasmania.
Not much is known about handfish, because their populations are low and they are not often seen in the wild. But researchers suggest handfish lay fewer eggs than most other fish species, which means their long-term survival is a concern.
Newly described as its own species, the Ziebell’s handfish typically has yellow fins, as seen in photo, but the species can also appear with a mottled purplish coloration. Ziebell’s handfish is found only in small, isolated populations off Tasmania and is listed as vulnerable in Australia.
Today all handfish are found only around southeastern Australia. But about 50 million years ago the animals likely inhabited regions around the world.