Marine biologists from the University of Wollongong (UOW) have just made a stunning discovery. They caught on camera a rare protected fish that was wandering the ocean at double the depth it was known to inhabit.
Is this discovery connected to climate change or are there things we never knew about the deep ocean?
The Eastern Blue Devil Fish – Paraplesiops Bleekeri
The team of researchers knew that this fish would live at almost 30 meters depth and close to the coast, but they found this species at 51 meters depth and two kilometers down the continental shelf.
Eastern blue devil fish are rare and live in the coastal reefs in Eastern Australia. They grow up to 40 cm long and have a very attractive color, which attracted the aquarium industry until the New South Wales Fisheries Laws declared them protected species.
Researchers used video cameras with bait attached to them and dropped these devices (baited remote underwater video stations – BRUVS) on the ocean floor.
Ph.D. candidate Lachlan Fetterplace, School of Biological Sciences (UOW) stated that they were filming the sandy ocean floor habitat when they caught the rare sighting:
“We dropped the cameras onto what they thought to be a sandy bottom and instead found uncharted reef with overhangs and crevices. Normally this footage would be stored on hard-drives and left to gather dust at the back of a lab.”
However, they were interested in seeing the seascape, so they looked through an hour-long video sample, “and there it was, the unmistakable electric blue colouring, white stripes, and shy emergence of an eastern blue devil fish from a crevice to investigate a baited camera,” added Mr. Fetterplace.
Not “Looking Deep Enough”
They reported the discovery in the European Journal of Ecology, adding that there are no historical records in Australia’s museums or databases on these fish living deeper than 30 meters.
Mr. Fetterplace explains that this will make the protected area expand so that the species can be better protected. He concluded that the fish might have moved because of climate change and that many other reef fish might change the depth and area they inhabit as they look for cooler water.
The paper included that other fish species have changed the depth range: immaculate damsel, red morwong, mado, white-ear, silver sweep, and crimson banded wrasse lived well outside their known depth range.
Mr. Fetterplace concluded that this discovery shows scientists “how little we know of the deeper oceans,” adding that there may be many other reef fish species living in deeper reefs globally and “we are simply not yet looking deep enough.”
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere