World’s Rarest Fish With Hands Found Only Off South East Tasmania

Most probably, the world’s rarest fish, red handfish (Thymichthys politus) have been found only off south east Tasmania.

A team of divers from Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) and the citizen science project Reef Life Survey (RLS) who have discovered this new population of fish, say that it is so extremely rare that up until last week, scientists knew of only one population, numbering between 20-40 individuals.

Red Handfish (Thymichthys politus) are found only off south east Tasmania and until last week only one remaining population of around 20-40 individuals had been identified. Image credit: IMAS

Now, thanks to a chance discovery, their ranks have doubled.

Red handfish – T. politus – is one of about 14 species in the handfish family, and these animals don’t get about the way other fish do.

Instead of swimming, they use their ‘hands’ – which are actually fore-fins – to move themselves around on the ocean floor.

The new population lives in an area about 50 meters (164 ft) by 20 meters (66 ft) – about the size of two tennis courts. A pretty small neighborhood when you think about it, which is one of the reasons, why they’re so hard to pin down.

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“We’ve already learned a lot from finding this second population because their habitat isn’t identical to that of the first population, so we can take some heart from knowing Red Handfish are not as critically dependent on that particular set of local conditions,” IMAS scientist Dr Rick Stuart, said.

Tasmania is a global hotspot for this family of rare and endangered species.

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