from UW Today, April 17, 2017. Note: Adam Summers teaches regularly at Friday Harbor Labs, and he is scheduled to teach BIOL 467: Comparative Animal Physiology at FHL in autumn 2017. You can apply for fall quarter at FHL now, with an early enrollment deadline of May 15.
A set of curious researchers, state-of-the-art visual technology and a bit of good luck helped find a new fish whose tooth collection could put a shark to shame.
Scientists at the University of Washington, Texas A&M University and the Western Australian Museum have discovered and named a new genus and species of clingfish after stumbling upon a specimen preserved in a jar dating back to the 1970s. The fish was unmistakably different from the other 160 known clingfishes, named for the disc on their bellies that can summon massive sticking power in wet, slimy environments.
The researchers named the new species “duckbilled clingfish” (Nettorhamphos radula) for its broad, flat snout ― not unlike the bill of a duck ― that houses an impressive number of tiny, conical teeth.
A detailed description of the new genus and species was published April 14 in the journal Copeia.“This fish has characteristics we just haven’t seen before in other clingfish. It’s the teeth that really gave away the fact that this is a new species,” said lead author Kevin Conway, a fish taxonomist and associate professor at Texas A&M University.
Scientists, including co-author Adam Summers of the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories, are interested in clingfish for their ability to stick to rough surfaces. The finger-sized fish uses suction forces to hold up to 150 times its own body weight. Understanding the biomechanics of these fish could be useful in designing devices and instruments to be used in surgery, or to tag and track whales in the ocean.
Conway and co-author Glenn Moore of Western Australian Museum discovered the new clingfish while looking through specimens preserved in jars at the museum in Welshpool, Australia. It’s common for unknown specimens collected during surveys to be registered and shelved until an expert has the time, and interest, to take a closer look. This specimen was caught off the coast of Southern Australia in 1977. Even though the fish is only as big as a pinky finger, its unique teeth structure caught their attention.