Archive for June, 2010

Most spectacular new (fish) species of 2009

Friday, June 18th, 2010

The International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE) has published its annual list of the ten most spectacular or interesting species discovered in the last year, and three species of fish made the list. They are interesting not only in their own right, but as it happens they also represent three areas of research where a lot of species are yet to be discovered.

Dracula minnow

Adult male Dracula minnow, less than 20 millimeters long. Photo: Mike Noren.

The Dracula minnow (Danionella dracula)
The Dracula minnow is a miniature fish, less than 20 millimeters long, from northern Myanmar, where it lives in relatively cool and fast-flowing streams. The name refers to the long “fangs” of the males, which reminded the scientist who discovered it of the canine teeth of the vampire Dracula. The “fangs” are, however, not used for blood-sucking, but may be used in fights between males, or perhaps during courtship and spawning. The Dracula minnow is one of a number of tiny miniature species of fish discovered in recent years, and without doubt many still await discovery.

Psychedelic frogfish. Photo: David Hall /

Psychedelic frogfish. Photo: David Hall /

Psychedelic frogfish (Histiophryne psychedelica)

Not all recently discovered species are small or inconspicuous, as the Psychedelic frogfish proves. Frogfish are small predators who spend most of their time among rocks, corals or algae, “walking” on their pelvic fins, or waiting in ambush for their prey. Although few frogfish are as spectacular as the Psychedelic frogfish, many are brightly colored but are still surprisingly hard to see when not moving. Not just frogfish, but numerous fish species of all kinds remain to be discovered on coral reefs, especially in the deeper areas of the reefs.

Omar’s banded knifefish

Omar’s banded knifefish (NRM 55841). Photo: Mike Noren.

Omar’s banded knifefish (Gymnotus omarorum)

Omar’s banded knifefish lives in rivers in Uruguay, where it uses electrical fields to communicate with each other, find its way, and detect food among the dense vegetation. For 30 years scientists have used this fish as a model organism for the study of electricity in fishes, all the time believing it to be Banded knifefish (Gymnotus carapo). It may seem odd that researchers could study a species for 30 years without noticing that it was, in fact, a completely different species, but it is common that species with large distributions on closer examination turn out to be several similar species mistakenly lumped together under one name. In the extreme case of the Banded knifefish, it turned out to really be 20 species!


IISE Top Ten Species of 2009

Dracula minnow (Danionella dracula) on FishBase

Psychedelic frogfish (Histiophryne psychedelica) on FishBase

Omar’s banded knifefish (Gymnotus omarorum) on FishBase