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There be dragons: New deep-sea predator species discovered

FT. PIERCE, Fla. -- Dr. Tracey Sutton, a fish ecologist at the HARBOR BRANCH Oceanographic Institution in Ft. Pierce, Fla., has discovered a new species in a bizarre and elusive family of deep-sea predatory fish known collectively as dragonfish. The find, reported in the current issue of the journal Copeia, is the first new dragonfish species discovered in more than a decade.

The first specimen of the new species, dubbed Eustomias jimcraddocki, was large, compared to the average pencil-sized dragonfish at about six inches long and roughly the size of a hot dog. Sutton named it after Jim Craddock, a legend in the deep-sea fish biology field.

Sutton discovered the fish during an expedition to Bear Seamount, off New England, that was sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Ocean Exploration. Now the head of HARBOR BRANCH's Fish and Plankton Ecology Department, he was at the time a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

"The fact that we are still finding new species in one of the best-studied oceanic regions in the world tells us there is still a lot more out there to be known," says Sutton, who is also a leader in the ambitious international effort to identify all ocean animal and plant species known as the Census of Marine Life.

Sutton plucked the new dragonfish from a net being used to sample the study area's marine life. While identifying the catch on board, he realized that the specimen represented a new species. Later he traveled to the Smithsonian Institution and Harvard to do some fish sleuthing. In museum collections at those institutions, he found 13 additional specimens collected in the Atlantic over the past 30 years that had previously been either unidentified or misidentified. This work verified that the new species was in fact unique.

Dragonfish are so rare that scientists have often been forced to study and describe new species b
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Contact: Mark Schrope
schrope@hboi.edu
772-216-0390
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution
23-Mar-2004


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