The rare warty fish with hands for fins and an aversion to travel
They refuse to leave home and move by dragging themselves along the seafloor, so it’s not hard to see why the red handfish is an incredibly rare sight in the ocean
They’re anglers with no angle
The red handfish and the other 13 species of handfish belong to the anglerfish family. Instead of a fishing lure like other anglers, they have a flap of skin between their dorsal spines that forms a crest. They’re also known as warty anglers because they’re covered in small, tooth-like scales called denticles.
They crawl instead of swimming
The ‘hands’ of the red handfish are modified pectoral fins that it uses to crawl along the seafloor in search of prey and mates. If they’re really startled, the fish will summon the energy to swim up about 50 centimetres (19.7 inches) before coming back down to the seabed.
Young fish don’t bother moving out
Not only are the fish inefficient travellers, they’re reluctant ones too. While the young of many other fish species disperse as soon as they can to find their own patch of ocean, newly emerged red handfish settle almost immediately in the area where they hatched.
Females are incredibly fussy
In case life wasn’t hard enough for them already, red handfish are fussy when it comes to breeding; after fertilisation, females will only lay their egg masses at the base of Caulerpa seaweeds. Once they’ve found a suitable spot, females guard their developing offspring until they hatch.
They’re potentially the rarest fish
Until recently, just one population of about 40 red handfish was known to exist, living on a 50-metre (164-foot) stretch of reef off southeastern Tasmania. In January 2018 a team of divers announced the discovery of eight individuals at another site and estimated that they were part of another group of 40.