Queensland Museum

New species of fish served up on a plate

Embargoed until: Publicly released:
Tonight’s fish and chips could be a new species of Grouper as Queensland Museum’s ichthyologist recently discovered. The story began when Queensland Museum fish expert Jeff Johnson was contacted by a fisherman who had sent him a photo of a grouper or rockcod, which he had never seen before. With his interest piqued, Jeff asked for a specimen and was told the fisherman had already sent the fish to be marketed.

Organisation/s: Queensland Museum

Media Release

From: Queensland Museum

New species of fish served up on plate

Tonight’s fish and chips could be a new species of Grouper as Queensland Museum’s ichthyologist recently discovered.

The story began when Queensland Museum fish expert Jeff Johnson was contacted by a fisherman who had sent him a photo of a grouper or rockcod, which he had never seen before. With his interest piqued, Jeff asked for a specimen and was told the fisherman had already sent the fish to be marketed.

After a bit of detective work, Jeff found the fish for sale and offered to buy the five cod from the fish market in Brisbane’s North Lakes.

“As soon as I saw them, I thought they were probably a new species, so I purchased all five and began the hard work of formally proving they were a new species,” Mr Johnson said.

“Queensland Museum geneticist Dr Jessica Worthington Wilmer ran some tests in Queensland Museum’s molecular lab and after comparing them with other specimens in various museum collections, had enough evidence to prove it was a new species.”

The new species, Epinephelus fuscomarginatus can be found off the central section of the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland at depths of about 220 metres.

Mr Johnson said he had in the past been asked about this particular fish, but was unable to acquire the specimens to formally identify and describe it.

“The fish reaches at least 70 centimetres in length and has been selling in fish markets – I’ve been told they are quite tasty,” he said.

“The plain-looking fish, with no real distinctive markings, is typical of most other grouper species and probably explains why it has remained unnoticed and without a name for such a long time.”

Queensland Museum CEO Dr Jim Thompson said genetic research was being increasingly used to describe new species.

“Queensland Museum is fortunate to have a molecular lab on site that our taxonomists use to assist with not only the description of new species, but research and analysis, this technology is helping taxonomists compare DNA of related species and allowing more species to be described,” Dr Thompson said.

“The discovery was yet more evidence of the great science coming out of Queensland and proof that our museums are much more than displays of static objects.”

The new species, Epinephelus fuscomarginatus, will now join 91 other species in the Epinephelus genus, which can be found around the world.

The scientific paper on Epinephelus fuscomarginatus has just been published in the zoological journal Zootaxa.

So the next time you are buying fish, take a closer look – it might just be a new species!

 

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  • Jeff Johnson and new species of fish
    Jeff Johnson and new species of fish

    Jeff Johnson with a new species of fish found in a fish market in North Lakes in Queensland

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