Thursday, July 4, 2013

Endangered Species Chronicles: The Spotted Handfish

spotted handfish, endangered species, Arkive, infographic, endangered fish, walking fish
The Spotted Handfish, looking unhappy to be endangered. 

In the coastal estuaries of Tasmania lives one of the most unique fish ever to walk the Earth: the spotted handfish (Brachionichthys hirsutus). One of the most endangered marine fish, this unique swimmer is also a walker, thanks to its hand-like pectoral and dorsal fins, which it uses to walk along the seafloor.

First discovered in the late 1790's by French explorer Peron, the spotted handfish was a common sight in Tasmanian waters until the 1980's when its population crashed. Reasons for the crash are unclear but possibilities include the introduction of the northern Pacific seastar (Asterias amurensis), known to be a voracious predator of shellfish and which may also eat the eggs of handfish, and deterioration of habitat due to coastal development.

Surveys in the 1990's showed the spotted handfish to be sparsely distributed and the largest colony had only 300 to 500 members. Its restricted range and low population density make it vulnerable to extinction and a captive breeding program has been launched to eventually re-introduce this unique fish back into its former range.

See incredible video of the spotted handfish walking on the seafloor at Arkive.

See an infographic on how we're endangering species here.

See Joel Sartore's portraits of many endangered animals here.

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