Is it a bird, is it a plane? No it is Batfish and SeaRobin! The bemused wonderings of a marine biologist lost at sea

by our anonymous contact with BatFish & SeaRobin, Madagascar

During a post dinner discussion with a colleague in Belo sur Mer, he mentioned that during his trip to the islands of Kirindy Mite, approximately 20 km west of the village of Belo, he had seen the remains of the most bizarre looking fish. Without his computer on his person, a number of variously detailed and strange sketches followed with a possibly inappropriate number of incorrect guesses by me (considering I am a fish ecologist!) as to what it was he had seen. I finally went to bed scratching my head and hoping to soon discover the correct the true identity of this bizarre creature whose picture had adorned my notebook.

Luckily as soon as my colleague returned to civilization (Morondava) and a healthy internet connection the following day, he emailed me the picture and we happily identified the fish as an Armoured SeaRobin, from the family Peristediidae.

The mysterious SeaRobin

These fish truly are strange creatures and live in deep tropical waters between 50 and 300 m beneath the surface of the ocean. This particularly unlucky one was likely caught by migrant fishers living on the islands and setting their nets in deeper waters to target shark. Although encased in scales or plates (resembling armour) SeaRobins have a very similar body shape to Gurnards (Trigilidae) and are often confused.

The discovery of this curiously named fish got me wondering why we use land animal names for animals that live in the sea? Batfish, Seahares, Rabbitfish, Waspfish, Scorpionfish, Goatfish, Catfish and so on… Obviously we named land-based animals first, and some of these fish actually bear resemblance to their land based namesakes, but this prehistoric looking armoured creature from the depths bears little likeness to the songbird that adorns our Christmas cards!

The batfish – the beginnings of a underwater crime fighting duo?

Either way with their armour casing perhaps these Searobins could join forces with the local Batfish (Ephippidae) to create a subsea crime fighting duo….KERRPOW!

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