Taiwanese researcher Ho Hsuan-ching (何宣慶) has discovered five new species of batfish, despite having to spend weeks in quarantine because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The deep-sea batfish, or Halieutopsis, a genus under the family Ogcocephalidae, have been recorded as deep as 4,000m.
As the genus is one of the most rarely seen fish, there is a lack of research on it, Ho said on Friday, adding that many specimens of the genus at museums have been misidentified.
Photo courtesy of Ho Hsuan-ching
“In addition, piecemeal sampling in different geographic regions, combined with a general paucity of specimens, has inevitably meant that some species have been overlooked,” he wrote in a study published in the Journal of Medical Science and Engineering.
Ho said his paper examined most specimens of the genus in collections around the world, with the purpose of reviewing previously identified species and providing new morphological and distributional data for each of them; naming and describing any new species from the genus; providing a key to the species under Halieutopsis; and commenting on the systematics of the genus and its biogeography.
Ho said there were some specimens that he must see in person to identify very minute differences from species to species, resulting in Ho spending at least 35 days in quarantine just for visits to France and the Arabian Peninsula.
The paper not only looked at the 11 existing species of the Halieutopsis genus, but also introduced five new species: Halieutopsis echinoderma from eastern Taiwan and northeastern Australia, Halieutopsis kawaii from Taiwan and Indonesia, Halieutopsis okamurai from southeastern Japan, Halieutopsis murrayi from the Gulf of Aden and Halieutopsis taiwanea from northeastern Taiwan, Ho said.
Batfish are rarely seen. They are so uncommon that one might not see one over the course of an entire lifetime, Ho said.
Attempts to categorize deep-sea fish, especially one that is so rare, is difficult, so his research has taken him across the world to museums, large and small, to gather information, Ho said.
Several decades is insignificant compared with the length of human history, but it has taken academics two generations of hard work to complete research on Halieutopsis, and this in itself carries significant weight, Ho said.

This story has been amended since it was first published.

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