A dead clingfish (or whatever it is) created a buzz on the South African coast. I don’t think the scientists are as puzzled as the papers would like to think.
Leandra Visser posted the above photo on Facebook during her holiday at De Kelder near Cape Town, South Africa. Her caption read, “Can someone please tell me what the hell this is? We picked it up on the beach at De Kelder. It’s the real thing!!”
The weird looking creature is fish-like but with huge teeth and its head appears far too big for its tiny body.
According to the experts, theories vary. Some speculate that the creature could be some kind of mutated species. Others say that as the head and jaws are so out of proportion with the creature’s body, it could be made up of several different creatures. The example they gave was a puffer fish that had eaten a mussel (as it looks like a mussel shell in Visser’s hand in the photo).
According to Professor Charles Griffiths of the University of Cape Town’s Department of Biological Science, the creature could be a Klipsuier or Rocksucker (Chorisochismus dentex), a type of clingfish, that has dried out on the sand, which would apparently change its appearance drastically.
Unfortunately it might be impossible to conclusively find out what the weird-looking creature actually is as Ms. Visser threw the fish away. The photo had also been sent to Alan Whitfield, of the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB). But, I found more. Read on.
By looking for more on this story, I found this piece dated May 6:
While walking with friends on Sea Point beach, a man found a very odd-looking fish on Thursday.
“I was walking with two friends on the beach at night and saw this thing under seaweed,” Bradley Sampson said in an e-mail to the Cape Times.
“I saw it had teeth, so we pulled it out and it was the weirdest thing ever. A fat red fish with big sharp teeth that looked out of proportion to its body size.”
Described as being 30cm long, the fish had a very fat head and a skinny tail.
This photo was supposedly also sent to Roger Bills, senior aquatic biologist at the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) who surmised it also was a clingfish, “possibly Chorisochismus dentex“. But you couldn’t know for sure unless more of the body were visible. This article also notes Charles Griffiths (same as above) contacted who confirmed that it was a giant clingfish that wash up often.
Are these the same specimen? The same species? I’m still puzzled over the teeth because the clingfish has a receding, not protruding, lower jaw. Then I realized that perhaps the upper (scarier-looking) picture is the fish’s underside? That is not an eye in the picture behind the mouth but some other feature that resembles an eye. The animal is desiccated which can alter its appearance considerably. Also, she is holding it with a mussel shell, it’s not part of the creature. I can find nothing on the dentition which is strange considering LOOK AT THOSE TEETH!
Anyway, as usual, whatever it is, it’s almost certainly not a mutant or new species. It’s just something people aren’t used to seeing regularly because they don’t know of the diversity and weirdness of life on earth. It does not help when the media makes more out of this than there needs to be and perhaps takes scientists views too flippantly including them as an aside in order to make room for a scary picture and headline. But, that’s how these things work. And that’s why we’re here.
Addition: There are toothy pics of these fish at the Save Our Seas Facebook page. They note that the fish have two prominent front canines, with which they are able to remove limpets or mollusks from the rocks and swallow them.