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Never before photographed, possibly undescribed species...


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#1 meister

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Posted 23 November 2004 - 08:36 AM

June 12th my wife and I landed in Cozumel about noon. It was sunny, hot and quite humid. Later that afternoon it began raining while we were in Chedraui Market. It rained down hard. By the time we finished paying for our purchases, the parking lot had several inches of water. We experienced difficulty getting a taxi ride back to Caribe Blu Hotel. Water was rapidly becoming too high for the automobiles to drive.

The rain went into Sunday. There was widespread flooding on the island. A couple different locals told us it was some of the worst flooding they’d experienced in twenty-five years.

Monday was our first dive after the rain subsided. There was a great deal of particulate in the water. Currents were unpredictable and changing. Along the shoreline was small bubbling sand pockets. Cold water was bubbling from these sand pockets.

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Wednesday morning our first dive was Palancar Bricks. At about fifty feet Jorge the divemaster from Blue Angel, Minkers and I all spotted a very strange fish. I later found out a divemaster from Aqua Safari also spotted the same fish within one-half hour or so after we encountered it. Unfortunately, due to equipment failure I was somewhat handicapped with only an Olympus 4040 and an internal strobe. None the less, I took some decent pictures of this fish, knowing it was in all likelihood quite rare.

It seemed to swim about aimlessly, biting at particulate in the water. It seemed oblivious to my picture taking, as if it was a deep sea fish which might have been swept up to the shallow water from the depths, and without vision in the shallows. It’s belly appeared quite bloated, also suggesting to me it may have been swept up from the depths. We later found out the bellies are distended from being full of small copepod crustaceans.

I sent a few pictures to Reef. Several weeks later I was contacted by a research fellow from the Australian Museum in Sidney. He was very interested in the fish. He and his colleague at the Smithsonian in Washington have been studying these rare fishes for years, a long-term project. One or more of these Cozumel pictures was used in a presentation he recently gave.

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#2 james

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Posted 23 November 2004 - 08:44 AM

Hi Don,

Thanks for posting. Too cool!. Does this fish have a name yet?

Cheers
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#3 yahsemtough

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Posted 23 November 2004 - 09:08 AM

Awesome Don!

And that is a very cool looking fish, I'd love to see one of those. Nice captures also.

Cudos to you!
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#4 Starbuck

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Posted 23 November 2004 - 09:26 AM

Holy Smoke that is right out of the Abyss..!!!! Looks like it has long flowing blonde hair off its gills and head.. THAT should be posted on all the boards for everyone to see..

Thanks for sharing!

M.

#5 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 23 November 2004 - 09:43 AM

Wow Don,

That sure is a Caribbean Species I've never seen before! You should try and get it into Paul Humann's Carib ID book Vol 4!

Certainly the reduced density of the skeleton, large teeth, distended stomach (eat when you have the chance is a common tactic in the deep) and the bioluminescent organs on the trailing tail are typical of mesopelagic (midwater) species - if that tail is actually part of the fish (see below). Mesopelagic creatures that live between 100 and 1000m (300-3000ft), many of which migrate everynight into the upper 50-100m each night. (see attached image of some acoustic data I collected in the Indian Ocean showing this migration over 24 hours).

I think that your suggestion that this fish probably migrated into the upper 50m or so at night and then was advected over the shelf by wind driven currents associated with the storm is a very good one.

The strangest thing about the whole picture is that long trailing tail that seems a hydrodynamic nightmare for this fish. Was it indeed part of the fish - it looks as if it might be a large syphonophore or somthing that has become tangled with the fish. If that is the case - that may explain why the fish was in shallow water in the first place.

Two other unusual aspects to me are the body colours - blotchy patterns are v rare in deep water species and also yellow is not usual - also the eyes look like a shallow water species. In addition, although it may be eating copepods, that mouth is certainly not designed for eating them.

A fascinating find. Thank you so much for sharing.

Alex

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#6 meister

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Posted 23 November 2004 - 09:49 AM

Thanks guys. James, I accidently cut the last paragraph off the end of my post. Here's the missing last paragraph:

I'm told the fish is a tapetail of the family Mirapinnidae, with 3 genera and 5 described species in the family. There have only been about 100 tapetail specimens seen or collected, with most of those less than 2cm long. This Cozumel specimen is approximately 45 cm long. Much larger than 2cm, it's the largest ever seen, and possibly an undescribed species, but that can’t be absolutely confirmed without DNA.

Here's a link to the Australian Museum with a search entered for Mirapinnidae:
http://www.amonline....&y=5&nosurvey=1
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#7 meister

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Posted 23 November 2004 - 10:11 AM

Greetings Alex,

Interesting input. The streamer or tale is part of the fish. I've estimated the head at 10cm with the streamer at 35 cm for a total body length of 45 cm. The streamer was indeed bioluminescent.

My original email of this encounter was to Lad from Reef. I would think Paul Human is aware of the encounter, as his name was involved in the forwarding of my original email onto one of the two fellows whom I eventually corresponded back and forth with regarding the find. I have no idea if it will be in Reef Fish Identification book, but I'm told by John Paxton from the Australian Museum that him and Dave Johnson from the Smithsonian "have submitted a summary of the family to a new book on larval fishes of the Western Central Atlantic by William Richards that is supposed to be published soon by CRC Press."

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#8 Simon K.

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Posted 24 November 2004 - 02:13 AM

Hi meister,

absolut fantastic images of a fascinating creature.

Could you post some crops of the head? It would be interesting to see more details.

Simon

#9 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 29 November 2004 - 07:04 AM

This fish is no way near as cool as Don's but its one that I cannot ID that I took in the Caribbean this summer. It was about 15cm (6 inches) long. Photographed late at night (4 hours after sunset) in about 10m of water (30ft).

The picture isn't great because I had a wide angle lens on. These are 2 crops of the same shot.

Alex

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#10 Leslie

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Posted 29 November 2004 - 03:49 PM

Hi Alex -- Our fish guys, Rick Feeney & Jeff Seigel thought it was a carapid so I checked FishBase. It looks an awful lot like a pearlfish, Carapus bermudensis. Pearlfish are the little guys with the bizarre habit of living inside the body cavity of sea cucumbers. They live inside the cukes during the days & go out to forage during the night. <http://www.fishbase....ry.cfm?id=3128>
Cheers, leslie

#11 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 30 November 2004 - 01:07 AM

Yeah, now you mention it, Leslie, it does. Size right too.

This one was hanging head down in mid water when I photographed it - I rotated these images so they would fit on the screen better. I think if I had seen it on the seabed close to seacucumbers then I might have worked it out for myself. Interesting, but not that exotic.

Alex

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#12 blackbird

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Posted 30 November 2004 - 01:19 AM

Good job it didn't mistake you for a Seacucumber :shock:
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#13 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 30 November 2004 - 03:05 AM

I hadn't thought of that! That emoticon says it all.

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#14 Leslie

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Posted 30 November 2004 - 09:56 AM

There actually are recorded cases of pearlfish seeking refuge in fishermen & swimmers but some fish are even worse. A particularly nasty little freshwater fish lives in South America; it follows urine streams back into people's urethers then erects the dorsal spines to keep from being dislodged. And for those of you heading off to PNG you might want to stay out of streams & rivers according to the news item below.... or at least invest in some cast-iron swim trunks!
Leslie


Two die in fish dismemberment
PORT MORESBY
Friday 6 July 2001

Two Papua New Guinea fishermen have bled to death after having their
penises
bitten off by pirahna-like river fish. The fish, which zero in on urine
streams in the water, have struck terror among villagers along the Sepik
River, in north-western PNG. Authorities believe the killer fish is an
introduced member of the South American pacu family and a relative of the
piranha. In both of last month's fatalities, the fish demonstrated a trait
of the piranha by
following a trail of urine in the water, swimming to its source and then
biting it off with razor-sharp teeth. Some believe the killer may be a
food-source fish introduced from Brazil in 1994 by the United Nations Food
and Agricultural Organisation and the PNG National Fisheries Authority.
However, marine biologist and aquaculturist Ian Middleton said he believed
they were a different species, introduced from across the PNG-Indonesia
border. He believed the fish had started biting humans because of a lack of
naturally occurring food. "The reason for biting people on their genitals
is a result of the fish detecting a chemical change in the water, swimming
up the urine trail and
biting the genitals." This behavior was well documented in the Amazon, he
said. The director of the PNG Office of Environment and Conservation, Dr
Wari Iamo, yesterday expressed "grave concern and dissatisfaction" at the
way some government agencies and donor organisations had gone about
importing exotic plant and animal species.

#15 meister

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Posted 30 November 2004 - 01:54 PM

:shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock:
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#16 james

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Posted 30 November 2004 - 02:53 PM

Yikes, I'm not sure if that's worse than a candiru or not...
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#17 Leslie

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Posted 30 November 2004 - 07:34 PM

Candiru! Thanks, James - that's the name of the fish that swims into people's urethers; I couldn't think of it earlier. Also known as the vampire catfish as different species either burrow into their victim's bodies or go into their gills to feed on blood. Obviously people should listen to their mothers' when they say don't go skinny-dipping and don't pee in the water! :wink:

#18 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 12:51 AM

Right, anyone fancy taking up skiing photography instead?

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#19 blackbird

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 06:29 AM

There's alot to be said for the old brass helmet diving :?
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#20 Simon K.

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 06:36 AM

When you want to photograph these guys, dry-suite with pee-valve is the way to go ;-)

Simon