Spotted Handfish (Brachionichthys hirsutus) – Profile, Facts

spotted handfish
(Last Updated On: April 13, 2021)

The spotted handfish scientific name Brachionichthys hirsutus is an uncommon Australian fish from the family Brachionichthyidae. It’s categorized as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Pink Record 2002. This article will give an overview of spotted handfish.

Spotted handfish Profile

It’s a benthic fish normally discovered at depths of 5 to 10 m, with general sightings various from a minimal of two to a most of 30 m deep.

The Spotted handfish is uncommon in that it has extremely tailored pectoral fins, which seem like arms (therefore the identify) and permit it to stroll on the ocean flooring.

It has an extremely restricted vary, being discovered solely in the estuary of Derwent River, Tasmania, and close by areas.

The Spotted Handfish, Brachionichthys hirsutus is a small fish that lives on the ocean mattress within the cool, sheltered waters of southeast Tasmania.

It has modified pelvic fins that seem like “arms”, therefore the identity. Whereas the handfish can swim when required, it normally makes use of the “arms” to “stroll” throughout the seabed looking for meals akin to mysid shrimps.

Spotted handfish habitat

The primary habitat for this spotted handfish species is sandy to silty sea mattress within the Derwent River estuary close to Hobart, the place it varieties small, localized populations. This highly-localized distribution is kind of unusual for fish.

The explanation seems to be the truth that the adults are sedentary, spotted handfish don’t transfer round very a lot. Additionally, the larvae develop utterly inside the egg mass laid by the females.

Frequent all through the decrease Derwent estuary and adjoining bays previous to the mid-1980s, the Spotted Handfish has suffered a critical decline in distribution and abundance.

Solely a handful of populations of spotted handfish are actually discovered across the mouth of the Derwent estuary.

Handfish lack a larval stage and hatch as absolutely fashioned juveniles (6–7mm in size) which transfer straight to the ocean flooring and seem to stay within the neighborhood of spawning all through their lives.

This has two essential consequences. First, spotted handfish colonies could also be comparatively remoted (ie mixing between them is restricted) and a discount in spawning success could severely affect a colony.

Second, the flexibility for spotted handfish to recolonize areas from which they’ve been displaced is prone to below.

spotted handfish, Brachionichthys hirsutus

Spotted handfish behavior

The sample of spots on every Spotted Handfish seems distinctive, which means we will determine people. Spotted handfish are members of the group of fish together with deep-sea anglerfish. There are a variety of handfish species present in Australian waters, with the vast majority of these being uncommon and restricted to the southeast.

As now we have stated, the handfishes are a singular, Australian household of anglerfish, probably the most speciose of the few marine fish households endemic to Australia.

The Spotted handfish choose habitats based mostly on the microhabitat options. It tends to want advanced spotted handfish habitats with options akin to depressions and ripple formations crammed with shells, to keep away from predators.

Handfish are uncommon, small (as much as 120 mm in size), slow-moving, benthic fishes that want to ‘stroll’ quite than swim.

The pectoral fins of spotted handfish are leg-like with extremities resembling a human hand (therefore they’re widespread identity). Females are believed to succeed in sexual maturity after two to a few years at lengths of 75–80 mm.

Spotted handfish happen in sheltered coastal bays with gentle sediments. They inhabit depths of 1–60 meters however are most plentiful between 5–15m.

Inside bays, they occupyhabitats with extra advanced options akin to depressions within the seabed made by stingrays, or fields of sea-squirts.

Missing swim bladders, Spotted handfish use their modified fins to ‘stroll’ throughout the seabed quite than swim.

Motion research counsel they solely journey small distances: 10m–460mover many months, or a mean of 4m a day.

Spotted handfishare ambush predators and, like their shut cousins the deep-sea angler fishes, they have a lure situated simply above the mouth, maybe to entice their prey of amphipods, shrimp and worms. Current observations point out the lure can also be utilized in courtship.

the fish truly make sophisticated judgments relying on what was threatening the eggs and confirmed totally different behaviors for various species.

One of many keys discovering was that the handfish have been profitable in keeping off a number of north pacific seastars (regarded as a high predator of handfish eggs), by wedging themselves in-between the predator and their eggs and wiping it with their tail, forcing the seastars to vary direction.

Total, the guarding mother and father have been fairly profitable in keeping off threats, and the eggs have been secure so long as the mom was on guard.

After watching this footage (dozens of hours) I turned fairly shut to those exhausting working and caring moms who put a lot of effort and time into giving their younger an opportunity.

spotted handfish, Brachionichthys hirsutus

Spotted handfish Diet

At the moment, little is understood concerning their food plan, however, they’ve been reported to prey on small shellfish, shrimp, and polychaete worms within the wild. When captive in aquaria, Spotted handfish eat mysid shrimp, amphipods, and small reside fish. Newly hatched handfish have been noticed to do fairly effectively on a food plan of small amphipods.

Spotted handfish location

Spotted handfish is a sort of anglerfish that belongs to the Brachionichthyidae household. It may be discovered solely within the Derwent River estuary in Tasmania (endemic species).

Spotted handfish is the bottom-dwelling creature. It inhabits sandy sea flooring within the coastal areas and lives on a depth of 6.5 to 98 toes.

Handfish belong to a gaggle of coastal anglerfish with a slim distribution in south-eastern Australia. There are 14 species with seven endemic to Tasmania and the Bass Strait.

Spotted handfish have been as soon as prevalent along Tasmania’s jap coast, and have been so widespread that through the 1960s and ‘70s that they have been routinely collected for sensible demonstrations at Hobart’s college.

Nevertheless, a wide-scale survey in 1996 sighted solely a small variety of people at 4 websites. More modern surveys have documented local populations at 9 small websites within the Derwent estuary, and in 2015 an extra inhabitant was found within the D’ Entrecasteaux Channel.

spotted handfish, Brachionichthys hirsutus

Spotted handfish life cycle

Spawning happens in September and October. Females lay egg lots on vertical objects akin to stalked ascidians, sponges and seagrasses.

The feminine guards the egg lots. After 7 to eight weeks, absolutely fashioned juveniles (6 mm to 7 mm lengthy) hatch from the eggs and drop to the substrate under.

Spawning females connect an egg mass of as much as 200 eggs onto an applicable object akin to a stalked ascidian (or sea squirt), after which guard the eggs for as much as six weeks till they hatch.

The species spawns someday throughout September and October. Females lay various eggs various from 80 to 250 eggs on quite a lot of vertical objects, together with seagrasses, sponges, macrophytic algae, polychaete worm tubes, and stalked ascidians.

The eggs are giant in diameter measuring roughly 3-Four mm. Handfish have a brief pelagic larval interval. Due to this fact, their eggs hatch after 7-Eight weeks as absolutely fashioned juveniles (6-7 mm SL).

Spotted handfish threats

The Spotted Handfish is at present listed as Critically Endangered beneath the Commonwealth and as Endangered in Tasmania.

There are a variety of causes the handfish is listed as endangered. Small inhabitants, restricted distribution and susceptible life cycles are key. Habitat degradation and pest species have contributed to the species’ decline.

The decline of Spotted handfish populations could have started on account of incidental seize from historic near-shore dredge fisheries for scallops.

On more modern occasions, launched North Pacific seastars have degraded pure spawning habitat and chains from yacht swing-moorings have destroyed habitats in sheltered bays.

As a temperate coastal species on the southern tip of a continent, international warming can also be a significant menace.

The Spotted Handfish is endemic ​to Tasmania and is present in components of the Derwent Estuary, Frederick Henry, Ralphs, and North West Bays.

Spotted Handfish are small (as much as 120 mm lengthy) sluggish transferring fish which seem to stroll on their pectoral and pelvic fins quite than swim.

The Spotted Handfish is white, cream or brown lined in lots of darkish brown, orange or black spots and generally stripes. The primary dorsal fin is distinguished over the top and the second dorsal fin is lengthy extending again right down to the tail. 

spotted handfish, Brachionichthys hirsutus

Spotted Handfish happen in restricted numbers in colonies and are normally discovered on gentle substrates typically in shallow depressions or close to rocks or different projections. They’re present in depths of two to 30 m under the floor.​

They eat small mollusks, crustaceans and marine worms. Spawning is from September to October, eggs are connected to things on the substrate and the feminine stays in attendance till they hatch.

The small general numbers and low inhabitants density signifies that the Spotted handfish is susceptible to disturbance.

Threats could also be predation by the unique Pacific Seastar, lack of spawning habitat via scouring of the seabed, e.g. by boat mooring chains, and water high-quality points from industrial air pollution, city effluent and siltation.​​

There are a variety of causes the handfish is listed as endangered. Small inhabitants, restricted distribution, and susceptible life cycle are key. Habitat degradation and pest species have contributed to the species’ decline.

Steered threats embrace: predation on egg lots, or on the meals provide of the Handfish by the northern Pacific Seastar Asterias amurensis, a unique pest; lack of the pure sandy habitat via elevated siltation brought on by land clearing; and. heavy metallic contamination of sediments and concrete effluent.

The best threats to the handfish seem like siltation and invasive species. The Derwent Estuary the place the fish lives is extremely urbanized and industrialized, and a variety of marine pests have been launched via transport.

One key pest is the Northern Pacific Seastar (Asterias amurensis), a very giant and voracious predator that’s now plentiful within the estuary.

Research by CSIRO presents that the seastars eat the stalked ascidians that the handfish use to connect their eggs.

The egg mass itself is extremely susceptible to predators through the six weeks the eggs take to develop. Rising numbers of seastars and launched crabs pose a big and ongoing threat.


Probably the most pressing matter regarding the survival of the species is to handle the nuisance menace posed by the presence of a launched species of starfish (Asterias amurensis), which prey on the fish eggs.

One of the many first methods to preserve the handfish was to present them full safety beneath fisheries laws, stopping assortment for aquariums.

The species’ restricted distribution has labored in its favor, encouraging curiosity from the local people to scrub up the estuary.

Synthetic sticks for attaching eggs have been developed by CSIRO and planted all through the estuary.

There may be some proof that the handfish are already utilizing the sticks, though it’s unknown whether or not the eggs survive to hatch.

It’s tough to watch the handfish’s inhabitants as a result of diving is concerned, however, in recent times, some populations have been monitored as a part of volunteer packages akin to the Reef Life Survey.

Present outcomes counsel the populations within the center of the estuary are secure, however extra surveys are at all times wanted.

Other Recommended Articles


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *