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

World of Animals - - An­i­mal An­swers -

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.

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