The newly-described Halieutichthys intermedius batfish. Image credit: Ho, Chakrabarty & Sparks
Though the Gulf of Mexico is one of the most intensely studied marine environments on the planet, there is still room for discovery. Scientists have managed to discover and describe three new species of fish—all of which live in areas partially or completely covered by the Gulf oil spill.The three fish are members of the Ogcocephalidae, a group of bottom-dwelling anglers sometimes known as "pancake batfish." The fish may not be attractive—some have described their movements as "grotesque"—but the finding underscores the potential vastness of biodiversity still waiting to be uncovered in the world's oceans.
John Sparks, curator of Ichthyology at the American Museum of Natural History, commented that:
If we are still finding new species of fishes in the Gulf, imagine how much diversity—especially microdiversity—is out there that we do not know about.
While two of the species live in the northeastern Gulf coast, the third occupies a range that roughly mirrors that of the oil spill.
"These discoveries," Sparks said, "underscore the potential loss of undocumented biodiversity that a disaster of this scale may portend."
Read more about animals and the oil spill:
Gulf Spill Exclusive: Shocking Marine Life Destruction and Angry Locals (Slideshow)
BP Bans Workers From Sharing Photos of Animals Killed by the Oil Spill
How Will the BP Oil Spill Affect Critically Endangered Bluefin Tuna?