Mystery skeleton

A strange skeleton has caused a two-day sensation amongst some of the world’s best ichthyologists! But finally we have an answer.

Whiptail Cusk skeleton

Barry Russell © Barry Russell

The skeleton appears to be the abdominal vertebrae of a deep sea fish probably a Whiptail Cusk, Hypopleuron caninum (Family Ophidiidae, Subfamily Neobythiniinae).


During a recent trip to the Institute of Environmental and Marine Sciences (IEMS), Silliman University, Dumaguete, in the Philippines, fish researcher Dr Barry Russell was shown a very unusual skeleton by IEMS Assistant Director Dr Janet S. Estacion. The skeleton was found by a local fisherman washed up on a beach at Dauin near Dumaguete, on the island of Negros. The international fish community has worked together to identify the skeleton.

Barry forwarded the images to Mark McGrouther (Australian Museum), who had no idea what sort of fish originally ‘owned’ the skeleton. He sent the images to Dr Dave Johnson (US National Museum) and from there, the images were sent to many ichthyologists worldwide.

After 2 days we had our answer from both Dr Hiromitsu Endo (Kochi University, Japan) and Dr Jorgen Nielsen (Zoological Museum, Denmark).

The Whiptail cusk occurs near the seabed in depths from 300 m to 575 m. We thought it strange that the skeleton of a deepsea fish would be found washed up on a beach. Part of the answer may lie in the proximity of Dumaguete to the very deep water Negros Trench, where water depths reach about 4400m.

Reference:
Radcliffe, L. 1913. Description of 7 new genera and 31 new species of fishes of the families Brotulidae and Carapidae from the Philippine Islands and the Dutch East Indes. Proceedings of U.S. National Museum. 44: 135-176.


Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology
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Tags mystery, skeleton, Hypopleuron caninum, Whiptail Cusk, Ophidiidae,