The world’s rarest species of fish, found only off the shore of Tasmania, Australia, might not be so rare after all.
Striking in appearance and biology, the red handfish is aptly named for the hand-like fins it uses to walk (yes, walk) along the ocean floor. It also sports a stylish mohawk shaped fin atop its head, giving it rather anthropomorphic qualities.
NPR Reports seven divers discovering this aquatic oddity in another previously unexamined area of the ocean.
Until now, the species was thought to only exist as a solitary colony of 20-40 fish. Scientists and nature lovers are all thrilled by the scuba divers’ chance encounter. The ocean’s average depth is 12,100 feet.
“That second population’s just a huge relief,” Live Science ReportsRick Stuart-Smith, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies scientist and Reef Life Survey co-founder, saying in a video. “It effectively doubles how many we think there are left on the planet. But it also gives us hope that there may be other populations out there.”
The Australian government had begun lamenting the “marked decline” of the red handfish, attributing the loss in numbers to green algae degradation, which this funky fish relies on for spawning grounds.
In America, 12.75% of people hunt or fish, and in Australia the story is similar. Scientists, however, are keeping the exact location of this discovery under wraps to prevent poachers from encroaching on the red handfish.
This glimpse of optimistic news from Oceania has become a rarity of late. Coral bleaching has been an issue for the great barrier reef for some time now due to rising ocean temperatures. Coral reefs support a large ecosystem, and due to extreme sensitivity to temperature fluctuations, they are dying.
Our oceans are going through dramatic changes due to pollution and global warming, and species are vanishing from the sea floor. Finding more red handfish for Australian scientists is a welcome break from a bleak reality.