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Rare scorpionfish found off Sethukarai in Gulf of Mannar

Researchers at the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) have found a rare band tail scorpionfish (Scorpaenospsis Neglecta) off the Sethukarai coast in the Gulf of Mannar.

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It is the first time this particular species has been found live in the Indian waters. It was found during an underwater exploratory survey of the sea grass ecosystem in the region by the Kochi headquartered CMFRI scientists.

The rare fish found camouflaged within the sea grass meadows is a rare marine species well-known for stinging venomous spines and an ability to change colour.

R Jeyabaskaran, senior CMFRI scientist who led a team of researchers in finding the fish, said that during the underwater survey, this species was first sighted as a coral skeleton.

“On first look, its appearance was totally confusing as to whether it was a fish at all or fossilised coral skeleton covered with bivalve shells. It started changing its colour the moment we touched it with a dead coral fragment. It was noticed that within four seconds, the fish skin changed from white to mottled black,” said Jeyabaskaran.

The fish is called scorpionfish because its spines contain neurotoxin venom that can be extremely painful to an individual. Eating this fish would lead to death. Having highly evolved sensory system, the fish can even detect respiratory ventilation flows produced by crabs at a distance of 10 cm in dark environment. Unlike other fishes, bandtail scorpionfish uses its lateral sensory system instead of eyes to hunt its prey.The specimen has now been deposited with the National Marine Biodiversity Museum of the CMFRI.

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