News Round-Up

Farewell smooth handfish: what can we learn from the world’s first marine fish extinction?


Earlier this month, a group of Australian scientists confirmed a depressing landmark for our blue planet: the first marine fish of modern times has been declared Extinct on the IUCN RedList. The smooth handfish (Sympterichthys unipennis) was one of 14 (now 13) species of handfish, beautifully patterned creatures with a distinctly “missing link” look about them. Residing only in south-eastern Australian waters, these striking animals are bottom-dwellers that use their highly modified pectoral fins to “walk” along the seabed.

Smooth handfish were once so common in south-eastern Australia that it was one of the first species collected in an early scientific exploration of the country in the early 1800s by French zoologist François Péron. The species is now only known from the specimen collected in that expedition; during extensive in-water surveys of the species’ limited range since 2000, divers found no smooth handfish individuals, declaring it extinct. MORE

Header image: John Turnbull/Flickr.