New Waspfish Discovered Off South Africa

Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 19th, 2006

Sometimes you find new animals in museums. Look up the story of the Congo peacock on page 71 of Cryptozoology A to Z, someday. It’s a good one. For today, we turn our attention to a museum in South Africa.

Yes, it has happened again. A specimen collected in 1994 has been revealed to be a new species. It was "re-discovered" at the South Africa Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity collection in Grahamstown.

According to the South Africa Herald on January 18th: "The discovery of the creature, a species of the venomous, little-known waspfish, means great kudos for the institute."

One of my regular coelacanth correspondents, institute curator emeritus, Dr. Phil Heemstra, is quoted by the media as noting: "The discovery also signalled again how little we knew about the creatures of the deep sea"

The details of the event are intriguing:

The new species was caught in July 1994 in a lobster trap off the northern KwaZulu Natal coast. The fishermen were not carrying sophisticated depth measurement equipment, but it was estimated the traps were lying 150-300m down. A Durban marine biologist had seen the fish, recognised it as "something unusual", and sent it down to the SAIAB, Heemstra explained. Identified there as a member of a species of waspfish which normally occurs in Japanese waters, it was preserved and archived as an interesting find. But visiting US researcher Dr Stuart Poss, one of the world’s leading authorities on venomous fishes like the scorpion, stone, lion and waspfish as well as the related but non-venomous velvet and horse fish and coral crouchers, recognized it as far more significant than that. Following up a hunch after he spotted it last month on the computer catalogue of the institute’s collection, he located the specimen – and confirmed that it was indeed a completely new species. Its dimensions are different and an X-ray showed that its skeletal structure is different too. Reference to the one photograph taken of it shortly after it was pulled out of the sea and still had some colour showed that its colours are not the same either as the Japanese species. Poss left earlier this week for the US, where he will officially write up his findings. The newcomer will then be included in an up-coming book on the fishes of the western Indian Ocean.

Congratulations to Phil Heemstra and Stuart Poss, plus the unnamed lobster trap owner!

As Charles Fort once wrote: "The sea is the best field for data."


The new unnamed species of waspfish. Photograph credit: SAIAB catalogue archives.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

One Response to “New Waspfish Discovered Off South Africa”

  1. Joe Biello responds:

    Thought this article from Livescience would be of interest. This relates to the previous blog about discoveries for 2006.

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