New hagfish caught in hydrothermal vent

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Scientists have caught a new species of hagfish by sucking it out of a hydrothermal vent using a slurp gun.

Peter Moller of the University of Copenhagen and Joe Jones of Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute caught the new species at a hydrothermal vent on the East Pacific Rise about 2200m/7218 ft below the surface.

The fish is the first representative from the jawless fish group Agnatha to be captured from a hydrothermal vent.

The species, which was named Eptatretus strickrotti in a paper in the latest issue of the journal The Biological Bulletin, was named after Bruce Strickrott, the pilot of the Alvin submarine that was used to capture the fish.

W Joe Jones told the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute that without Alvin pilots oceanographers would not get their jobs done: "We saw this little thing swimming like a worm and I told Bruce, 'There is no way you are going to catch it'," said Jones.

However, Strickroot managed to get the submarine behind the hagfish and vacuum the fish up using a device known as a slurp gun: "I was like, 'Man, this guy has skills and deserves recognition. The naming was a way to express our gratitude."

Strickrott said: "It's a feather in my cap. It's recognition from researchers for my contributions to the advancement of science."

Moller and Jones said that the new species of hagfish can be distinguished from relatives by the following combination of characters: "The specimen differs from all congeners by the very slender body (depth 2.9% of total length), the paired and median ventral nasal sinus papillae, and the presence of 10 afferent branchial arteries on the medial ventral aorta.

"It is further unique because of a combination of the following features: slime pore counts; paired dorsal nasal sinus papillae; 12 gill pouches and gill apertures; posterior left side of body widely separated from pharyngocutaneous duct; 3/2 multicusp configuration; ventral aorta bifurcated anteriorly between 2nd and 3rd gill pouches (counted from the snout toward the heart); and pink coloration. The specimen is here described as a new species named Eptatretus strickrotti."

For more information see the paper: Moller PR and WJ Jones (2007) - Eptatretus strickrotti n. sp. (Myxinidae): First Hagfish Captured From a Hydrothermal Vent. Biol. Bull. 212: 55-66. (February 2007).