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New clingfish discovery shows value of museum collections

The Duckbilled Clingfish specimens. Image courtesy Western Australian Museum, Dr Glenn Moore.Texas A&M University, Dr Kevin Conway.

The Duckbilled Clingfish specimens. Image courtesy Western Australian Museum, Dr Glenn Moore.Texas A&M University, Dr Kevin Conway.

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A new genus and species of clingfish has been discovered on the shelves of the Western Australian Museum’s Harry Butler Research Centre.

Western Australian Museum Curator of Fishes Dr Glenn Moore discovered the new clingfish with fellow researcher Dr Kevin Conway from Texas A&M University.

“We came across two specimens of clingfish that had similar characteristics, yet unmistakably different from the other 160 known clingfishes,” Dr Moore said.

The specimens were caught in 1977, offshore from Garden Island, Western Australia which is part of the temperate southern Australian waters known for its clingfish diversity and abundance. The specimens are believed to be the only two of this new species that exist out of water.

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.

“This fish has characteristics we just haven’t seen before in other clingfish. Even though the fish is only as big as a pinky finger, its unique teeth structure is what really gave away the fact that this is a new species,” Dr Moore said.

Dr Conway advised that the clingfish is named for the disc on their bellies which can summon massive sticking power in wet, slimy environments as well as on rough surfaces.

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The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.