More than 1000 unknown fish identified

More than 1000 new-to-science fish have been identified in the past eight years – an average of more than 10 a month.

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The new fish species include 122 sharks and rays, 131 members of the goby family, and a Mediterranean barracuda.

All were identified by researchers compiling the World Register of Marine Species (Worms), an inventory of all known ocean life.

Last year alone, some 1451 sea creatures were added to the register.

“Though a few relatively minor gaps remain, we consider the register now virtually complete with respect to species described throughout scientific history,” said Worms co-chair Jan Mees, director of the Flanders Marine Institute in Belgium.

“And, of course, we are constantly updating with newly-described species, revisions of taxonomy, and adding occasional species that have been overlooked.”

Dr Mees said an estimated 10,000 or more new-to-science species were in laboratories around the world waiting to be described.

New species of relatively large marine animals are still regularly being discovered, said the scientists.

They include the ruby red sea dragon Phuylopteryx dewysea from southern Australia which was added to the inventory only last month.

It was distinguished after comparing its DNA with two other sea dragon species.

Other new fish curiosities include Sphyraena intermedia, a new species of barracuda found in the Mediterranean, Histiophryne psychedelica, an Indonesian frogfish with “psychedelic” colouring, and the African frilled shark species Chlamydoselachus africana.

Non-fish marine creatures described last year include two dolphins from Australia and Brazil and 139 sponges.

The scientists have also been sorting out confusion over the registered names of sea creatures, many of which have been duplicated over the years.

One species of sea snail was found to have 113 different names.

Even at the rate at which marine species are being described today, it would take 360 more years to identify every creature thought to exist in the oceans, say the researchers.

“It is humbling to realise that humankind has encountered and described only a fraction of our oceanic kin, perhaps as little as 11 per cent,” Mees said.

“Sadly, we fear, many species will almost certainly disappear due to changing maritime conditions – especially warming, pollution and acidification – before we’ve had a chance to meet.”