It’s not a rubber ball, it’s a fish

February 25th, 2009 - 4:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 25 (IANS) Psychedelica aptly describes a species of fish that is a wild swirl of tan and peach zebra stripes and behaves in ways contrary to its brethren.
Members of H. psychedelica don’t so much swim as hop. Each time they strike the seafloor they use their fins to push off and they expel water from tiny gill openings on their sides to jettison themselves forward.

With tails curled tightly to one side - which surely limits their ability to steer - they look like inflated rubber balls bouncing hither and thither.

University of Washington’s (U-W) Ted Pietsch is the first to describe the new species in scientific literature and was the one to select the name.

It was little more than a year ago that the fish with rare, forward-facing eyes like humans and a secretive nature was the subject of worldwide news coverage after having been observed in the busy harbour of Ambon Island in Indonesia.

The species has a flattened face with eyes directed forward. It’s something Pietsch, with 40 years of experience studying and classifying fishes, has never seen before in frogfish.

It causes him to speculate that the species may have binocular vision, that is, vision that overlaps in front, like it does in humans.

While other frogfish and similar species are known to jettison themselves up off the bottom before they begin swimming, none have been observed hopping.

It’s just one of the behaviours of H. psychedelica never observed in any other fish, said Pietsch, U-W professor of aquatic and fishery sciences. He’s the study’s co-author.

An adult fish was observed in January 2008 by Toby Fadirsyair, a guide, and Buck and Fitrie Randolph, two of the co-owners of Maluku Divers, which is based in Ambon. They and co-owners Andy and Kerry Shorten eventually found Pietsch to help them identify the fish.

Adults are fist-sized with gelatinous bodies covered with thick folds of skin that protect them from sharp-edged corals as they haunt tiny nooks and crannies of the harbour reef, said an U-W release.

These findings are online at Copeia, the journal of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists.

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