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New Deep Sea Ghost Flathead

By: Amanda Hay, Category: Science, Date: 05 Nov 2014

Depressed head, spiny body, eyes too close together and very large? Meet our new species of Ghost Flathead.

McGrouther’s Ghost Flathead, Hoplichthys mcgroutheri

McGrouther’s Ghost Flathead, Hoplichthys mcgroutheri
Photographer: Louise Conboy © CSIRO Australian National Fish Collection

It’s not every day you get a new species of fish named in your honor, but today I can very proudly say we have a new species of Ghost Flathead named after our wonderful Fish Collection Manager (and colleague) Mark McGrouther.

The new fish species is called Hoplichthys mcgroutheri, McGrouther’s Ghost Flathead. The genus name Hoplichthys is of Greek origin and translates as ‘weapon fish’ as they are generally very spiny. As our Japanese colleagues who described the new fish said, the species name “recognises Mark McGrouther for his valuable contributions to the taxonomy of the Hoplichthyidae (Ghost Flathead family).”

Known from only 6 specimens McGrouther’s Ghost Flathead is found at depths from 510 – 1080 m off south-western Western Australia. It is clearly distinguished from its nearest relatives by its distinctive patch of small fine teeth on the roof of its mouth (referred to as vomerine teeth), relatively large eyes that are close together, the presence of scales on the dorsal surface of the body and unique fin ray counts.

Ghost Flatheads are fabulous and full of charisma, just like Mark. You may have noticed when you looked at the images that the new species looks like the shallow water flatheads you might see in your local fish shop. Oh, and Mark has one of those named after him too! Rogadius mcgroutheri, McGrouther's Flathead. Ghost Flatheads are marine fishes that live on the bottom at depths ranging from 60 – 1500 m; their flattened exceptionally spiny bodies and large mouths make them stealth predators and a spiny mouthful for a potential predator.

This great honour highlights Mark’s contribution to the fish fauna of Australia and his important role as collection manager of the Australian Museum Fish Collection. It also highlights the importance of collections and collaborations. Our Japanese colleagues discovered the new species in the fish collection at the National Science Museum, Tokyo, where specimens had been ‘waiting for discovery’ since 1975. Additional specimens were located in the CSIRO National Fish Collection in Hobart.

Amanda Hay
Technical Officer, Ichthyology

More information:
Nagano, Y. Imamura, H. and Yabe, M (2014). A new ghost flathead (Scorpaeniformes: Hoplichthyidae) from southwestern Australia. Ichthyological Research

Tags fishes, Australia, ichthyology, biodiversity, species discovery, Australian Museum Research Institute, Hoplichthys mcgroutheri, McGrouther’s Ghost Flathead, Hoplichthyidae, Nagano, new species,