Thursday 11 July 2013

Two new species of Batfish from New Zealand.

Batfish of the Family Ogcocephalidae (slightly confusingly, several unrelated groups of Fish are known as Batfish) are specialized Anglerfish that have become flattened and benthic (bottom dwelling) in much the same way as Skates and Rays (to which they are not closely related). They are found living on the seafloor, typically at depths of between 200 m and 1000 m, though a few species live in shallower waters, across much of the worlds tropical and subtropical seas (thought they are absent from the Mediterranean). Batfish are poor swimmers, instead walking along the seafloor using modified pectoral and pelvic fins.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 12 March 2013, Hsuan-Ching Ho of the National Museum of Marine Biology & Aquarium at the Institute of Marine Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology at the National Dong Hwa University, Clive Roberts of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Kwang-Tsao Shao of the Biodiveristy Research Center at Academia Sinica in Taipei describe tow new species of Batfish from the waters around New Zealand, as part of a general review of Batfish of the genus Malthopsis in the area.

The first new species described is named Malthopsis asperata, where 'asperata' means 'rough-spine', in reference to the spines which cover the Fish. This is a smallish Batfish reaching 65 mm in length, and covered in spines. The Fish is described from specimens collected between 1974 and 1994 and preserved in museum collections; the original colouration of the fish is unknown.

Malthopsis asperata  in (A) dorsal view, (B) lateral view, (C) ventral view, and (D) drawing of dorsal view. Carl Struthers (photos) and E. Mackay (illustration) in Ho et al. (2013).

The second new species is named Malthopsis parva, meaning 'small'; the largest adult specimen of the Fish found was 51.1 mm in length. This is a greyish-to-brownish fish with red and yellow markings lacking conspicuous spines. It was found living on seamounts and oceanic ridges north of New Zealand and south of New Caledonia, at depths of 420–677 m.

Malthopsis parva in (A) dorsal view, (B) lateral view, (C) ventral view, (D) drawing of dorsal view, (E) second specimen in dorsal view. (A-C) Carl Struthers, (D) M. Freebone & (E) CSIRO in Ho et al. (2013).

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