Brachionichthys Bleeker

Peter R. Last, Daniel C. Gledhill & Bronwyn H. Holmes, 2007, A new handfish, Brachionichthys australis sp. nov. (Lophiiformes: Brachionichthyidae), with a redescription of the critically endangered spotted handfish, B. hirsutus (Lacepede)., Zootaxa 1666, pp. 53-68 : 53-54

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Brachionichthys Bleeker


[[ Genus Brachionichthys Bleeker   ZBK ]]

Members of the Australian endemic fish family Brachionichthyidae, or handfishes, are considered to be the most primitive group of the lophiiform suborder Antennarioidei (Pietsch, 1981; Pietsch & Grobecker, 1987). The group presently consists of two extant genera, Brachionichthys Bleeker, 1855   ZBK and Sympterichthys Gill, 1878   ZBK , and 4 valid nominal taxa, B. hirsutus ( Lacepede, 1804) , and S. politus (Richardson, 1844) , S. unipennis (Cuvier, 1817) and S. verrucosus McCulloch & Waite, 1918   ZBK (Paxton et al., 2006). However, recent studies by the authors, have found that the family contains at least 8 undescribed species and additional genus-level taxa. Three of these new species were discovered during the preparation of a monograph on Tasmanian fishes (Last et al., 1983) and two of them were discussed in a guide to the coastal fishes of Tasmania and Bass Strait (Edgar et al., 1982).

Handfishes were amongst the first Australian fishes named (Last & Bruce, 1997). The French zoologist François Péron collected B. hirsutus from Tasmania (then known as Van Diemens Land) in the early 19th century on the Baudin expedition (1800-04), and these were subsequently described by Lacepède and Cuvier.

Their subsequent appearance in scant regional literature suggests that they were reasonably common off southeastern Tasmania during the 19th century. More recently, populations of B. hirsutus have become severely depleted and the species is now considered to be critically endangered by the IUCN (2006), or endangered by the State Government of Tasmania (Department of Primary Industries and Water, State Government of Tasmania, 2007) and the Federal Government of Australia (Department of the Environment and Water Resources, 2007).

In this paper, the new handfish, discussed and figured as Brachionichthys sp. 2 in Last et al, (1983), is formally described. Brachionichthys hirsutus , described briefly and simply by Lacepède (1804) as Lophius hirsutus   ZBK , is redescribed based on recent material.

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