The Fins United Initiative is excited to bring back the loved "Underrated Elasmobranch Spotlight" series through TFUI officer Jess Myers. Learn about the Chondrichthyans not shown on the big screen through her beautiful artwork... and check out the new name.
New species of chondrichthyan are being discovered all the time (about every two weeks). As a kid, I used to think that discovering a new species involved diving into the ocean at the right time and place to find a new and unique creature, but more often than not, the new species is already in front of us.
A great example of this happened during Keita Koeda’s visit to the Kagoshima City Aquarium in Japan back in 2018. As he looked at the giant guitarfish (Rhynchobatus djiddensis) in their tank, something didn’t seem quite right. The shape of the fish’s nose and dorsal fins did not match with that of other giant guitar fish that he had seen before. After talking with the aquarium, he and is team were able to obtain genetic samples and determined that the fish that had been in this aquarium for over 20 years was actually an undiscovered species all along.
While it is closely related to the giant guitarfish, this new species was deemed the Japanese wedgefish or Rhynchobatus mononoke. Other than fin shape, a distinguishing characteristic of this new species was the presence of black splotches behind the pectoral fins. Sometimes things as small as the angle of a fish’s fins can set it apart as a new species!
This was extra exciting because it was the first ray discovered in Japan in over a decade. The new wedgefish’s name is inspired by the culture as well. “Mononoke” means specter in Japanese, and references how the fish looks like a traditional spirit wearing a triangular hat.
While this species is still too new to have an IUCN Red List survey, they have automatically been listed with their cousins as Critically Endangered since most guitarfish populations are overfished.
Who knew such a special animal was hiding in plain sight all along!
Info from Koeda et al. 2020
TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
SEE MELISSA'S TEDx TALK HERE:
SEARCH BY CATEGORIES