Wednesday 18 July 2018

Rare fish with 'feet' caught off the west coast

Biologist Kevin Flannery from Dingle Oceanworld aquarium with the sea toad. Photo: Domnick Walsh © Eye Focus LTD
Biologist Kevin Flannery from Dingle Oceanworld aquarium with the sea toad. Photo: Domnick Walsh © Eye Focus LTD

Lynne Kelleher

A bizarre fish with feet has been found off the coast of Ireland.

The sea toad, which is usually found in the depths of the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico, was landed by the Kerry trawler Cú Na Mara on the Porcupine Bank.

The pink fish has evolved "feet" so it can tiptoe across the ocean bed.

It came to the attention of millions of astounded TV viewers when it featured on David Attenborough's 'Blue Planet'.

Its fins have evolved into legs to help it crawl along the ocean floor and catch prey.

Marine biologist and director of Dingle Oceanworld Kevin Flannery, who identified the fish, said it was an extremely rare deep-water creature.

A closeup from the ‘Blue Planet’ programme of a sea toad’s webbed ‘foot’ which is used to propel the creature across the sea bed
A closeup from the ‘Blue Planet’ programme of a sea toad’s webbed ‘foot’ which is used to propel the creature across the sea bed

He said: "It is a fantastic looking fish. In the 'Blue Planet II', David Attenborough called it the "fish with feet" because it actually walks along the bottom."

The fish has only been recorded off the Irish coast a handful of times.

Skipper

But Mr Flannery said the skipper who landed the sea toad on the Porcupine Bank, 200km west of Ireland, also landed one in the same spot 30 years ago.

"It came up when they were trawling prawns on the Porcupine Bank in the last few days," he said. The vessel was the Cú Na Mara. It's great when they bring in that kind of stuff. It shows they are off our coast.

"It's the same skipper, Patrick Flannery, who landed one in 1988 from the Porcupine Bank and this one has come in from the Porcupine Bank."

Mr Flannery said the fish will be sent to the Natural History Museum.

The bright pink fish is an ambush predator and lies in wait for its prey on the ocean floor.

Irish Independent

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