Scientists have announced the extinction of an unusual fish with bulging eyes and a finning wheel,media CNET reported. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the “smooth hand fish” is considered the first modern marine fish on record to be completely extinct.
It was one of the first species recorded in Australian science in 1802 by the French naturalist Fran?ois P?ron. The smooth handfish, which mainly lives in the waters of southeastern Australia, is an benthic animal that uses its highly evolved fins to walk on the seabed. The only specimen of a handfish was collected 200 years ago. The fish was declared extinct because no other examples of handfish were found in a wide range of marine surveys.
The smooth handfish is unique in that they produce fully formed young fish directly on the seabed. This makes them more susceptible to fishing or interference with their breeding habitats. Handfish also have a habit of staying in a specific area rather than migrating to safer places.
“They spend most of their time at the bottom of the sea and, if disturbed, occasionally pounce for a few metres,” Graham Edgar, a marine ecologist at the University of Tasmania, told The Smithsonian in an interview. “Because they lack the catfish stage, they can’t be dispersed to new locations — so the handfish population is very local and vulnerable to threats.”
The International Union for Conservation of Nature says a well-known scallop fishery operated in Tasmania before 1967 led to the death of many handfish because it dredged fish habitats and fishermen threw away fish that had been accidentally caught. The IUCN said in a statement that the extinction of smooth handfish, as well as the threat to 13 other surviving handfish species, can be attributed to historical bottom fishing, pollution and destruction of spawning habitats.
While there is still hope for the remaining handfish species, the Handfish Conservation Project reported in June that a team at the University of Tasmania’s Institute of Oceans and Antarctic Research was “breeding red handfish in captivity as part of a strategy to strengthen conservation of wild populations.”
In addition to smooth handfish, the IUCN’s recent Red List of Endangered Species also lists Bonin Pipistrelle bats, clown arrow poison frogs, and Jalpa Creek snr. as recently extinct species.