The Worm of Death, aka ugli­est thing in the sea

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - SPORT - Evan Need­ham

I am sure that ev­ery­one has caught a fish at some stage and thought, “What the ….!”

Most of the time peo­ple will sim­ply throw the un­known fish back with­out a sec­ond thought.

Cu­rios­ity by a fish­er­man sev­eral years ago re­sulted in one such odd­ity be­ing brought into the Museum and Art Gallery of the NT (MAGNT).

Ex­cit­ingly it was the first and only one of its kind in the museum’s col­lec­tion.

The worm-like crea­ture’s un­usual char­ac­ter­is­tics made fur­ther iden­ti­fi­ca­tion dif­fi­cult, the main fea­tures be­ing its big teeth, no eyes, and tiny lit­tle fins.

Now be­lieved to be a worm goby be­long­ing to one of the largest fish fam­i­lies in the world, it looks to be a new species and pos­si­bly even a new genus.

The mud-dwelling “alien­like” fish has sen­sory sock­ets in­stead of eyes and sneaks out of bur­rows to catch prey.

Since the cap­ture of one of these fish, its true iden­tity has con­tin­ued to baf­fle.

Dr Michael Ham­mer cu­ra­tor of fishes at MAGNT is do­ing ge­net­ics and X-rays to discover more.

A sec­ond ac­ci­den­tal cap­ture was made and pho­tographed in 2010 by Phil Hall, also in Dar­win Har­bour, who said “It was snap­ping quite ag­gres­sively at our fin­gers when we were un­hook­ing it, hence we gave it the name Worm of Death!”

This is a great ex­am­ple how an­glers can get in­volved in species dis­cov­ery by re­port­ing their chance cap­tures, they just need to mind their fin­gers!

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