New batfish species found under US Gulf oil spill

* Bottom-dwelling fish live in areas affected by spill

* Species ‘walks” along bottom, lures prey

WASHINGTON, July 8 (BestGrowthStock) – Researchers have discovered
two previously unknown species of bottom-dwelling fish in the
Gulf of Mexico, living right in the area affected by the BP
(BP.L: ) (BP.N: ) oil spill.

Researchers identified new species of pancake batfishes, a
flat fish rarely seen because of the dark depths they favor.
They are named for the clumsy way they “walk” along the sea
bottom, like a bat crawling.

“One of the fishes that we describe is completely
restricted to the oil spill area,” John Sparks of the American
Museum of Natural History in New York, said in a statement
released on Thursday.

“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.”

Writing in the Journal of Fish Biology, Sparks and his
colleagues named the species as Halieutichthys intermedius and
H. bispinosus. A third already known species called H.
aculeatus also only lives in waters affected by the spill, they
said.

Pancake batfishes have round, flat bodies with giant heads
and mouths they can thrust forward. They use arm-like fins to
drag themselves along the bottom and a modified dorsal fin
excretes fluid to lure prey.

Sparks said the three species had been considered just one
species, but his team found distinct differences.

“These discoveries underscore the potential loss of
undocumented biodiversity that a disaster of this scale may
portend,” he said.

BP aims to plug the well late this month or in August.

The well has pumped millions of gallons (litres) of oil
into the Gulf, coating shorelines and animals and having as yet
unknown effects on creatures living in deep waters.

It threatens to devastate the Gulf region’s
multibillion-dollar fishing and tourist industries.

(Reporting by Maggie Fox, editing by Vicki Allen)

New batfish species found under US Gulf oil spill