The discovery of a small, non-native fish with venomous spines off the coast of the United Kingdom is concerning researchers at the University of Bristol, which released a scientific paper on the detection of this untamed creature.
Researchers were puzzled when they came across the finned critter while the UK was experiencing a mild winter in 2017-2018.
“We were surprised when, in late winter 2017/2018, we noticed the appearance of yet another exotic fish species, this time a highly venomous species from the Pacific called the Non-native Pigmentatus moreopsis,” a paper co-authored by Mark Loder, a professor in the University of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, said.
The researchers noted that around these waters in the British Isles, non-native common carp are abundant and can cause devastation and damage. The non-native pigmentedas, however, weren’t seen as such when researchers looked closely. The fish seems to be in the wild alone, according to the university.
“They were intriguing: the pigmentedas have long, spiny spines on the side of their gills (known as luggepas), which are known to be highly toxic, particularly in combination with a toxic algae,” Loder and co-author Steven Hooper, a lecturer at the University of Plymouth, said.
“We were astonished to discover that this toxic group of fish had first made its appearance on these shores in an aggressive and predatory manner, with venomous venom spines that are an important feature of this newly acquired fish species,” they said.
The venom is believed to be nontoxic in its own right, according to Loder and Hooper, and only lethal to what the fish eats.
“Thankfully, we did not find them during any of our ten dives, so the possibility remains that the venom may be non-toxic in its own right but much more lethal in combination with other toxins,” they said.
Farther off the East Midlands coast, the researchers noticed a slightly different fish species with an even more venomous spade that they named the Non-native Frogodon pringuini.
“The invasiveness of this fish species is a surprise to us. They’re distributed along a 150km stretch of our coast on the mudflats in the East Midlands. They are a little shy, and they live in a reef hole within the reefs,” Hooper said.
The residents of those reefs however, would be stuck living next to this aggressive native fish.
“The non-native fish species show few signs of difficulty living alongside their hosts. Their coral reefs are endemic to the sites we’ve been visiting so when they go through adverse changes in water quality, temperatures, or from visitors fishing from the shore, they typically adapt to these changes,” Hooper said.
“A further concern is that these fish do well in an environment with rapid temperature change. Many tropical fish also like warm water, and have the thick skin and toxic spines of a rubber beetle. So, a temperate environment could quickly become too difficult for these fish,” he said.
The authors of the university’s study concluded that fishing and whaling are the main sources of global fisheries pollution and the more nations join the anti-global warming campaign, the better.
“The more countries that sign and ratify the Paris Agreement, the more likely we will see these fish disappear. But now is the time to spread the word about the dangers of these fish in the hope that they will soon disappear from British waters,” Loder and Hooper said.
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