Alien fish scares fish­er­folk

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL - By Kim Boodram – Trinidad Ex­press

IS it an alien, an evo­lu­tion­ary mile­stone or just a great ploy by our neigh­bours to reel in the tourists?

That’s the ques­tion af­ter fish­er­men from the Grena­dine is­land of Car­ri­a­cou re­cently hauled a weird-look­ing “alien” sea crea­ture - which they claimed looked like a cross be­tween a hu­man and a fish - out of the shal­low wa­ters of the port of Wind­ward.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port this week in the In­quisitr on­line, the “alien fish” was about a foot long and was de­scribed by as­ton­ished lo­cal fish­er­men as hav­ing scales like a nor­mal fish but no fins.

The crea­ture in­stead had a pair of hu­man-like feet with toes and a nearly “per­fect hu­man nose” lo­cated im­me­di­ately above its mouth.

It also re­port­edly had struc­tures that looked like a tail and wings.

Scep­tics have weighed in to say that the crea­ture is sim­ply one of sev­eral species of bat­fish that pop­u­late the wa­ters around the is­lands. The fish­er­men dis­agreed and said they would have recog­nised a bat­fish im­me­di­ately.

Lo­cal sport fish­er­man, John Moses, told the Ex­press that the odd-looker is likely a frog­fish and, due to it be­ing a deep-dwelling species, it’s not usu­ally seen. Moses said the frog­fish, also called an An­gler, is an am­bush hunter that “walks” on the ocean floor us­ing mod­i­fied pelvic and anal fins.

The fish­er­man who caught this spec­i­men got that part right when he guessed that the strange crea­ture uses its pair of hu­man-like feet, with toes, to walk on the seabed while it looks for food.

The find was de­scribed as ac­ci­den­tal and spooked the is­lan­ders who were around at the time.

“Ev­ery­one crowded round to look – no­body had ever seen any­thing like it. Quite a few peo­ple were pretty scared and thought it looked like some­thing out of a sci-fi hor­ror film,” the In­quisitr quoted one such per­son as say­ing.

The “fish” was re­port­edly caught by 74-year-old Hope McLawrence, a fish­er­man with decades of ex­pe­ri­ence, in the wa­ters off the coast of Caribbean is­lands, in­clud­ing Car­ri­a­cou and Gre­nada.

In ad­di­tion to hav­ing “two feet with toes and no fin,” a long back­bone, and an al­most “per­fect hu­man nose im­me­di­ately above its mouth”, the sea crea­ture also sported struc­tures that looked like wings and a tail.

“I have never dis­cov­ered any­thing like this be­fore. The wings and tail looks ex­tremely com­pli­cated,” McLawrence was re­ported as say­ing.

“By the look of the crea­ture it can­not swim but ap­par­ently walks on the sea bed,” McLawrence said. “This has shocked me to a con­sid­er­able ex­tent since I never thought that a crea­ture like this even ex­isted, much less in the har­bour of th­ese shal­low, friendly wa­ters. This is like a mys­tery and breathes a chill with this dis­cov­ery.”

But at least one scep­tic waded in with a bit of sar­casm, stat­ing in the on­line re­port:

“It’s so bizarre and alien that it is a na­tive species in Gre­nada. It is called a short­nosed bat­fish and it was even fea­tured on a postage stamp in Gre­nada. Why any­one there thinks this is a new dis­cov­ery is baf­fling.”

For those who be­lieve the crea­ture is a bat­fish (Og­co­cephalus na­su­tus), an­other sea-dweller with un­usual mor­phol­ogy, the species is found in West At­lantic wa­ters, around East­ern Florida and in Caribbean wa­ters. It is a bot­tom-dwelling fish of­ten found at depths of 200 to 1,000 me­ters but is also of­ten found in shal­low coastal wa­ters and es­tu­ar­ies.

Peo­ple are of­ten spooked by the crea­ture’s pec­toral fins adapted for walk­ing on the ocean floor in search of prey, which in­cludes crus­taceans, worms and other fish.

The In­quisitr re­port stated that frog­fish and bat­fish are of­ten con­fused for each other, with An­glers be­ing widely dis­trib­uted in trop­i­cal and sub­trop­i­cal wa­ters out­side the Mediter­ranean Sea.

What is it? A fish from the deep?

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