Deep sea fish in hoax tsunami email


An email containing photographs of bizarre-looking deep sea fish reportedly washed up on Thailand's Phuket beach after the tsunami actually contains images of fish collected during a study undertaken in 2003.

The email, which comes with the subject line "Phuket Deep Sea Creatures - Found At Seaside After Tsunami" was forwarded to Practical Fishkeeping by Nick Muhlemann of Sydney, Australia.

It has been circulating rapidly and contains some stunning images of very odd-looking deep sea fish taken in museum wet laboratories.

The email says: "As everyone knows, the tsunami in Southeast Asia was devastating both in the loss of life and economically to the region.

"However now that the clean up is underway in the region, deep sea creatures that live too deep to be studied are being found scattered throughout the wreckage.

"These creatures were washed up on shore when the waves hit.

"Amazing what lives so far below the surface isn't it?"


Several of the images in the hoax email contain museum accession numbers which Practical Fishkeeping has checked.

These show that the fish pictured were actually collected during a joint New Zealand and Australia Norfolk Ridge - Lord Howe Rise Biodiversity Voyage (NORFANZ) undertaken between May and June 2003, and weren't collected in Phuket as stated in the email.

According to NORFANZ, the fish pictured were captured during a series of over 150 deep water trawls in depths of up to 2000m.

The study found a number of new species, including a comical looking Psychrolutes species, affectionately named "Mr Blobby".

What are the creatures in the hoax email?

Stone crab, Neolithodes sp.

A male specimen of a new species of deep sea crab from the Neolithodes genus. This one has eight legs, but two of them are poorly developed and are tucked away at the rear-end of the crab. The red colour of this crab actually appears black at great depths.

Coffinfish, Chaunax sp. A

An undescribed species of pink, flabby bottom-dwelling angler fish growing to about 30cm in length. This new species has stumpy pectoral fins which are used to "walk" along the seabed. It's a predatory fish that sits around waiting for other fish to swim over the top of it, before engulfing them in its capacious mouth.

Prickly Shark, Oxynotus bruniensis

This very unusual high-backed shark has very prickly skin due to its very advanced dermal denticles. This species has an enormous oily liver which is believed to be one reason for its peculiar shape. The enlarged liver provides oil used to make the fish more neutrally bouyant.

Fangtooth, Anoplogaster cornuta

This species only grows to about 15cm but must be one of the toothiest fish known. Oddly, this is a midwater species and feeds on other fish. The teeth are so big that they slot into special sheeths either side of the fish's brain when the mouth closes.

Umbrella mouth gulper eel, Eurypharynx pelicanoides

This species gets its generic name from the latin for "all throat". It feeds on shrimps by engulfing them and the water around them. It has a light emitting organ on its tail.

More details on these fish can be found on the Australian Museum's website.