While fishing near Kakadu National Park In Australia, Tee Hokin hooked a strange species of fish that most people have probably never seen before. The fish was difficult for Hokin to reel in once she hooked it because it was somehow stuck to the boat.
When Hokin and her friends eventually brought the fish in, the were surprised because it looked like nothing they had ever seen before. The creature didn’t even look like a fish, it looked more like an alien. The strange creature had no eyes and teeth that appeared to be made of glass.
“Honestly, the first thing I thought about was the ‘Alien’ movie with Sigourney Weaver and that thing that comes out of people’s stomach, that’s exactly what I thought, and that’s what they describe it as when you look it up on the internet,” Hokin said.
Experts suggest that this strange creature could be a worm goby, which is sort of like an eel, but since they typically live in such muddy areas, they are rarely seen by humans. While these creatures may be scary looking, they actually aren’t dangerous, although some of them can grow to be over a foot long and one could imagine that a larger size worm goby could pack a punch.
Thinking that the creature was rare, Hokin and her friends let it back into the water after taking some pictures. Unfortunately, without being able to study the creature, there is no way to tell for sure what species it actually is.
There are so many rare and strange creatures out in the ocean, and even rivers and lakes, that are largely unknown to most humans. Last week, an even stranger creature washed up at UC Santa Barbara’s Coal Oil Point Reserve in Southern California. Even experts and researchers were stumped at first until they posted photos online to crowdsource information about what type of species it could possibly be.
Initially, the researchers thought it was a sunfish. However, it turned out that it was a hoodwinker sunfish, which is typically native to Australia and has never been seen in North America.
Marianne Nyegaard, a marine scientist who discovered the species in 2017, was tipped off about the new finding after other researchers saw the viral photos online and reached out to her.
“When the clear pictures came through, I thought there was no doubt. This is totally a hoodwinker. I couldn’t believe it. I nearly fell out of my chair,” Nyegaard told CNN.
“This is why it’s so intriguing why it has turned up in California. We know it has the temperate distribution around here and off the coast of Chile, but then how did it cross the equator and turn up by you guys? It’s intriguing what made this fish cross the equator,” she added.
Nyegaard says that she actually gave the species its name because it was so often misidentified.
“It had gone unnoticed because no one really realized it looked different. There’s a long history of confusion about the species in the sunfish family. This fish had managed to stay out of sight and out of everybody’s attention. It had been taken for mola mola (an ocean sunfish), so it was hoodwinking us all,” Nyegaard said.
Researchers are not sure if the fish swam all this way for a specific purpose, or if they are just spread out all over the world and very difficult to find.
“It’s not uncommon for sunfish to wander really far. In the future, we will understand whether this fish occurs regularly off the coast of California or whether this is a one-off,” Nyegaard said.
Nyegaard said that this discovery would not have been possible without the online database “iNaturalist.”
“iNaturalist is brilliant because we can log the sightings and learn more about (the fish’s) distribution. We are living in a changing world, and it’s important for scientists to get input from everybody in what they see because we can’t be out in the field every day all over the world,” Nyegaard said.
These recent findings show that the waters of planet earth are still largely an unexplored frontier and humans really only know about a fraction of the species that lurk beneath the surface.