Monday, August 10, 2015

A new frogfish: Porophryne erythrodactylus

 (photo by D. Harasti)
Frogfish are small, stocky creatures found in most tropical and subtropical oceans around the world. They belong to the group of anglerfishes and are often covered in spinules and other appendages to aid in camouflage. The camouflage serves two purposes: protection from predators and luring prey. Many species can change colour, others are covered with other organisms such as algae or hydrozoa. Frogfishes typically move slowly, lying in wait for prey, and then striking extremely rapidly.

The fish was first seen and collected in Australia in 1980, but the sole specimen disappeared soon after, leaving researchers no option but to shelve the discovery. Divers again saw the fish in 2005, and researchers worked with an Australian museum to collect three specimens. The fish had two different color patterns, leading scientists to believe there were two different species under the new genus. But only after they sequenced DNA from each, they realized they were the same species that have the capability to change from a grayish color to one that varies from reddish-pink to orange for camouflage.

The new species has a distinct red coloration on the tips of its pectoral fins. Its dorsal fins have a unique shape, allowing the fish to dart quickly over rocks. Other frogfish instead amble or "walk" across the seafloor. The colleagues named the new species Porophryne erythrodactylus - or Red-fingered anglerfish.

For the experts: A new genus and species of the frogfish family Antennariidae, subfamily Histiophryninae, is described on the basis of three specimens collected near Kurnell and Bare Island in Botany Bay, New South Wales, Australia. It differs from all other antennariid genera in having a combination of features that includes a unique morphology of the first and second dorsal-fin spines, some or all fins fringed with red, and a unique combination of fin-ray and vertebral counts. The new genus is diagnosed, described, and compared to its sister genus, Kuiterichthys, using both molecular and morphological data. Notes on habitat and sponge mimicry, locomotion and defense, and reproduction and parental care are also provided as well as a diagnosis and a revised key to the known genera of the Histiophryninae.

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