A rare population of fish was discovered by a group of divers off the Tasmanian coast, having bizarre finger-like fins which help them to walk across the surface of the ocean. The breed of the fish, called the red handfish (Thymichthys politus), according to the experts, is one of the rarest species of fish in the world, and only 20 – 40 individual could be discovered until now.
Antonia Cooper, an expert diver, led his diving team from the IMAS University of Tasmania for a deep-sea extravaganza. It was at the end of their diving session when they spotted an extremely rare — red handfish. “We were diving for approximately three and a half hours, and at about the two-hour mark we were all looking at each other thinking this is not looking promising. My dive partner went to tell the other divers that we were going to start heading in, and I was half-heartedly flicking algae around when I found a red handfish,” said Cooper in his statement to the associated press.
A study conducted by experts concluded that the red handfishes are found to be very horrible swimmers, and they usually prefer walking with their hand-like fins. These fishes measure about 2-5 inches in size and restricted by their inefficient swimming ability, they wander only in a limited area in the sea.
Cooper expressed that seeing a new population of fishes, which are distinguished clearly from the existing ones, is very exciting for him. He added that there’s a possibility of finding a bigger gene pool, and there’s also a probability that other populations are out there in the ocean as well, which are yet to be discovered.
According to the studies conducted previously, the red handfish is facing a severe threat of extinction, and only a handful of them are left out there, making the newly discovered colony of the red handfish is a promising discovery. The newly recognised territory of red handfishes is situated just off the coast of south-east Tasmania, and until last week only one remaining population of an estimated 20-40 individuals, was identified, a few kilometres away in the Frederick Henry Bay. IMAS (Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies) scientist Dr Rick Stuart-Smith expressed his relief as the discovery of this second population is of vital satisfaction considering the declining number of red handfishes all across the globe.
The unique fish also has a unique style of colonising, as their colonies measure only 50 metres by 20 metres, which is hardly double the size of a tennis court. The rather small size of their territory is due to their limitation in movement, by the fact that they walk on the seafloor instead of swimming. The University has sent another team of 7 expert divers for a follow up on the latest discovery, and scan the area of the red handfish colony for their study.