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Wetlands and Aquatic Research Center - Florida

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Click below to go to the Cruise Logs - (photo credit: Lophelia Coral - Open-File Report 2008-1148 & OCS Study MMS 2008-015)


Cruise Log: 8/17/2009    

Rare Find?

Liz Baird

This Deepwater Goosefish (Sladenia shaefersi), is the first specimen caught in United States waters and only the third caught in the world (photo credit Art Howard) - click to enlarge
Sunday's afternoon dive brought an unexpected find - a Sladenia shaefersi. This deepwater goosefish is so unfamiliar that it does not have a common name. It is an interesting fish with a wide mouth filled with sharp teeth, eyes that look more upward than forward, and dark smooth skin covered with spirally white markings.

This is the first specimen caught in United States waters and only the third caught in the world. The previous collections are from the southern Caribbean Sea near the northern end of South America. There are also two photographic documentations of the fish, one in the Gulf of Mexico and one off the coast of South Carolina. It was exciting to collect this fish and be able to examine it closely.

Finding this fish here, and coupling it with the photographic evidence from the Gulf and South Carolina, suggests that it might not be as rare as we think. It may simply be that this habitat is so difficult to sample that these fish have remained hidden. These deepwater reefs provide extraordinary habitat for a variety of species. They are hard to reach, and collecting specimens from them is even more difficult. Exploration using the Johnson Sea Link submersible is one of very few ways we can investigate the area and sample for specific animals. Sladenia shaefersi goosefish may be associated very strongly with this reef habitat, just as Polar Bears are tied to the Arctic.

This area of deepwater reefs off Cape Canaveral has extraordinary biodiversity, even more than some other areas we have surveyed on this mission. As in our last visit in 2004, we find small patch reefs that are packed with unique species. Every dive adds more to our knowledge and understanding of the area, and the follow up work back in the lab will help trace the energy flow through this ecosystem and populations that live in this habitat.

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