Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Nine new species for Tasmania's disappearing handfish family

Date:
May 24, 2010
Source:
CSIRO Australia
Summary:
Nine new species of handfish have been described by Australian scientists in research that highlights an urgent need to better understand and protect the diversity of life in Australia's oceans. The review brings the family to 14 known species -- six found only in Tasmania and one known from only one specimen possibly collected in Tasmania by early European explorers, yet not recorded since. It also deepens concerns about declining populations of some handfishes.

The Zeibell's handfish is restricted to isolated populations off eastern and southern Tasmania.
Credit: Andrew Maver

Nine new species of handfish have been described by CSIRO in research that highlights an urgent need to better understand and protect the diversity of life in Australia's oceans.

The new species are described in a review of the handfish family by Hobart-based fish taxonomists from the CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship, Daniel Gledhill and Peter Last.

Supported by funding from the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, the review of the handfishes brings the family to 14 known species -- six found only in Tasmania and one known from only one specimen possibly collected in Tasmania by early European explorers, yet not recorded since. It also deepens concerns about declining populations of some handfishes.

"Handfishes are small, often strikingly patterned or colourful, sedentary fish that tend to 'walk' on the seabed on hand-like fins, rather than swim. Fifty million-years ago, they 'walked' the world's oceans, but now they exist only off eastern and southern Australia," Mr Gledhill says.

"They are of great importance to understanding the origins of Australian marine life, the role of Australia as a refuge during previous periods of change, and the effects on living species of habitat alteration and rapid climate change."

Dr Last says handfishes are extremely vulnerable to environmental change -- introduced species, pollution, siltation, fishing, sea-temperature rise and coastal development -- due to their scarcity, patchy distribution, life history strategy, low breeding rates and poor dispersal ability.

(The Spotted Handfish is listed as endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the Red Handfish and Ziebell's Handfish are listed as vulnerable.)

"There is evidence of shallow-water species disappearing quickly, from being common in certain areas a few decades ago, to apparently being locally extinct in some areas," Dr Last says.

"It's not just two or three handfish species of concern. Our work has described nine new species, each with its own environmental niches and needs, and several of these appear to have very restricted distributions, and/or occur in very low abundance."

Mr Gledhill says the handfishes have proven difficult to classify due to their rarity and a lack of specimens.

One of the newly named species, the Pink Handfish, is known from only four specimens and was last recorded off the Tasman Peninsula in 1999. The Pink Handfish will feature in a photographic exhibition of Australia's marine biodiversity that opens May 21 at Questacon in Canberra.

The exhibiton is mounted by the Marine Biodiversity Hub, a national research partnership charged with furthering knowledge of Australia's oceans, and coincides with the United Nations' International Year of Biodiversity (2010) and International Biodiversity Day, 22 May 2010.

Professor Nic Bax of CSIRO and the University of Tasmania, director of the Marine Biodiversity Hub, says the exhibition offers a wonderful opportunity to acquaint young Australians with the beauty and challenges presented by Australia's vast ocean realm.

"More than half of Australia's territory is ocean, and some 95 per cent of this world is yet to be explored," he says.

CSIRO initiated the National Research Flagships to provide science-based solutions to Australia's major research challenges and opportunities. The 10 Flagships form multidisciplinary teams with industry and the research community.

The Marine Biodiversity Hub is a collaborative partnership funded by the Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities program, an Australian Government initiative supporting world class, public good research. Its partners include Tasmanian Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute, University of Tasmania; CSIRO Wealth from Oceans National Flagship; Geoscience Australia; Australian Institute of Marine Science; and Museum Victoria.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by CSIRO Australia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

CSIRO Australia. "Nine new species for Tasmania's disappearing handfish family." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100524101358.htm>.
CSIRO Australia. (2010, May 24). Nine new species for Tasmania's disappearing handfish family. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100524101358.htm
CSIRO Australia. "Nine new species for Tasmania's disappearing handfish family." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100524101358.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

AP (July 28, 2014) AP Investigation: As the Obama administration weans the country off dirty fuels, energy companies are ramping-up overseas coal exports at a heavy price. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins