The Mystery of the Walking Fish

Fagjun | Published 2017-06-10 02:57

Video footage of a walking fish has scientists scratching their heads and scrambling for answers.

Emeric Benhalassa was on a night dive in Bali, Indonesia when he spied something strange in the water. He saw a fish that seemed to walking on two legs on the seafloor. Luckily, he was able to capture video footage of the orange-brown fish scuttling around as he followed with his camera.

Watch the video here.

As we can expect, the first thing that scientists and the public want to know is what exactly this fish is. Strangely enough, scientists seem to be a little unsure of exactly what kind of fish they're looking at in the video. What some scientists are sure of, however, is that the fish is most likely some kind of stingfish. Of course, it's also possible that the fish is another yet-unknown species entirely.

What Species is the Walking Fish?

A striped stingfish [Photo by Rokus Groeneveld & Sanne Reijs]

So let's look at the species that the mysterious walking fish may be. A number of scientists agree that the fish is most likely a stingfish—a member of the genus Minous. Stingfish are venomous; when they inject a dorsal spine into another living thing, they inject their venom as well. However, stingfish refer to an entire genus, not a specific species. There are 12 kinds of stingfish in the Minous genus, and all of them look quite similar.

Jeff Williams, an ichthyologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, thinks that the walking fish in question may be a Minous trachycephalus, or a striped stingfish. However, W. Leo Smith, an ichthyologist at the University of Kansas’s Biodiversity Institute, disagrees based on tail coloration. Smith contends that the fish is actually a Minous pictus, or a painted stinger.

Meanwhile, Stuart Poss, an ichthyology research associate at the California Academy of Sciences has a different proposal. He thinks it's possible that the fish is a Minous quincarinatus, or a whitetail goblinfish.

It's also possible that it's not a variant of the stingfish at all. Hiroyuki Motomura, a marine biologist at the Kagoshima University Museum in Japan, is studying a new, unknown species of fish. Motomura thinks that the mysterious walking fish is the same species as the one he's studying.

Not Actually Walking

A painted stinger
[Photo by Rokus Groeneveld & Sanne Reijs]

It won't be easy to accurately identify the fish without an actual specimen at hand. Benhalassa's video may not be much help in identifying the fish's species, but it does provide insight into a mysterious, little-known fish. Stingfish spend most of their time covered with mud, which makes them difficult to observe. Having actual video footage of this mysterious fish is thus a great thing in itself.

Also, scientists say that the walking fish isn't actually walking. It just seems that way, so we shouldn't expect to see fish ambling out of the sea and onto our beaches any time soon. The legs that the fish seems to walk on are actually hunting aids. These hunting aids allow the fish to find prey. Thus, when Benhalassa filmed the fish scuttling about on the ocean floor, it was likely hunting for food.

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