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    Red Handfish

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    Appearance

    The Red handfish (Thymichthys politus) are small, slow moving benthic fish that grow to at least 136 mm total length and have a relatively elongate and moderately compressed body that tapers towards the tail. The skin is covered in small, close-set, flattened warts. Most scales and the associated spines of this species are fully embedded in the skin.

    Reproduction

    The green alga was observed to be the preferred spawning substrate of red handfish at Primrose Sands Reef and appears to be critical to spawning success. Females guard the eggs until hatching, with newly emerged hatchlings looking similar to adults, but appearing yellow/orange. Some hatchling specimens have a pattern of black and white markings on their pectoral fins. Once hatched, juveniles settle immediately in the vicinity of the egg mass.

    Diet

    Using its fins to walk, rather than swim, along the ocean floor, the red handfish feed on small crustaceans and worms.

    Distribution & Habitat

    They occur in Frederick Henry Bay and were historically recorded from sites off Port Arthur and the Forestier Peninsula (Australia). They inhabit a variety of locations, such as on top of rocks, amongst macro-algae, in sandy areas between rocks and the reef-sand interface and on sediments with weed clumps near reefs, with a depth distribution ranging from 1 to 20 metres.

    Conservation Status

    Principal threats may include loss of spawning substrate, habitat loss and degradation, water pollution and siltation, the spread of the invasive Northern Pacific seastar (Asterias amurensis), boating, recreational and commercial fishing, and the illegal aquarium trade. The red handfish are critically endangered as the geographic distribution is very restricted and precarious to the survival of the species.

    Video Credits: Nat Geo WILD
    Image Credits: Mark Green/ CSIRO Marine Research

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