Todd Gardner, a biologist from the Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center, said he identified a rare deepwater fish collected in shallow waters by a friend as the Deepwater Anthias.
A friend of Gardner’s, Bob Janke, was on a snorkeling trip in Shinnecock Bay when he discovered a small fish hiding among the cracks of a rotting piling in three feet of water.
He described it as “very similar in shape and behavior to the creole fish, but pink rather than maroon.”
Once his friend called to tell him of the find, Gardner said he waited anxiously for the fish to be brought to the Aquarium.
“I immediately thought of the Anthiinae, the subfamily of Serranids that includes Anthias and related genera, but I tried not to get too excited," Gardner said. "As far as I know, there are no shallow-water members of this group in the Atlantic."
Within minutes, Janke arrived at the Aquarium with the fish. Covering the bottom of the jar was a layer of loose tunicates, blue mussels, and other invertebrates, as well as seaweed.
Suddenly, a tiny Anthias popped out from under one of the mussels, Gardner said.
After much speculation, the sleuthing continued as photos were released to two deepwater basslet experts, Carol Baldwin of the Smithsonian Institute and Forrest Young of Dynasty Marine.
They agreed that the fish was one of two species: Hemanthias vivanus, known as red barbier, or Choranthius tenuis, known as the threadnose bass, both of which are usually found at depths of 200 to 2000 feet.
Janke donated the fish to the aquarium; the rare find has now begun chowing down on copepods and mysids.
As soon as the fish acclimates to his new surroundings, Gardner plans to retrieve a fin clip, which he'll send to Baldwin for DNA sequencing and definitive identification.
“Providing he keeps eating and growing, we’ll know soon enough, since the adult forms are easily distinguished,” Gardner said. “This is a huge discovery.”
Regardless of which species it turns out to be, the capture will probably turn out to be a record for both range and depth, Gardner said.
Since Atlantic Anthiines are poorly studied and rarely displayed in aquariums, the hope is that the specimen will provide opportunities to learn more about the deepwater species.