Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
Fish that walk (1999)

Fish that walk (1999)


[Music playing] [Music playing] (Narrator) This unique fish,
that walks on its’ hands, was declared an endangered
species in 1996 and only intense scientific
research has saved its’ life. But its’ near extinction could
be ringing the warning bells about much wider and more
serious environmental problems. There’s only one place where the
Spotted Handfish has been found. In the Derwent Estuary and a few
adjoining bays near Hobart in Australia. [Music playing] Originally called
the walking fish, it was one of the first fish
documented from Australian waters and there used to
be plenty of them. [Music playing] By 1996, their numbers had
declined to such an extent that they were declared
an endangered species, the first Australian marine species
to be threatened with extinction. [Music playing] So scientists from CSIRO, Australia’s
Science Research Agency, began to investigate
a small colony, identifying individual fish through
their unique spot formations. They took several fish back to the
laboratory and for the first time, handfish were bred
in captivity. But the question was, would
they survive in the wild? The handfish’s habits of
sitting still for long periods and laying their
eggs on the seabed may make them easy targets for
predators, pollution and silt. But the main culprit was thought to
be the Northern Pacific Sea Star. The Sea Stars arrived
in their thousands, about the same time as the
handfish numbers began to decline. At first it was thought they
were eating the handfish eggs but then scientists found it was
these tulip-like structures the handfish laid their eggs
around that were being eaten. So they created a plastic
alternative and it worked. In one underwater colony, the handfish
used 49 plastic sticks as nests for their egg masses, compared to only
five found around natural sea tulips. The scientists are now hoping that
they can increase handfish numbers by giving them more plastic
sticks to lay their eggs around and by releasing
captive bred fish. But scientists aren’t convinced that this
is the only danger to the handfish. They are also concerned that
sediment and pollution from urban and industrial developments in
the area may also be to blame. The decline in the handfish
could also be an indication of wider ecological
problems in the estuary. The long-term fate of the Spotted
Handfish is still unsure but hopefully science will
help prevent the loss of this unique Australian fish. [Music playing]

17 comments on “Fish that walk (1999)

  1. Incredible!! Well worth a gander for anyone interested in these fascinating Hand Fish from the shores of Australia. There is literally so much alien (Others such as the Frog fish and Incredible Mimic Octopus ) type of creatures that we know so little about, that swim, glide, creep and crawl across the ocean floor.
    Faced with the possibility of extinction, until Science stepped up, intervened and developed an awesome workaround to the problem that literally plagued them! Thank You once again Science!!!

    If this isn't enough proof of Evolution in the making then I bloody don't know what is! Science Is Awesomeness defined!!

  2. I understand saving a species if Humans are the ones who pushed it into extinction directly/indirectly, but if it gets to the point where a species can no longer survive WITHOUT our continued intervention, should be not let them go extinct?

    While these fish are essential proof of evolution, is it not playing god to step in the way of their evolutionary dead end?
    I take it back if the pollution in the area, or species introduced by humans (Like crayfish in AZ) is killing off what the plastic is imitating.

  3. Breeding this fish 'en masse' and bringing it into the aquarium trade could create a (admittedly slightly) artificial second reservoir for the species. They are very cute, apparently thrive in brackish water – a real challenge for the advanced fishkeeper – and reproduce in captivity. Before they are completely extinct measures need to be taken to ensure the survival of this very lovely fish.

  4. My immediate interest, is that PLASTIC can play a beneficial role in positive environmental outcomes. We see that plastic waste in rivers and oceans is a killer when ingested by all the creatures that eat it, and yet here, we have a story where it can be thoughtfully used for the good of a species without negative effects.

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