Humans have explored less than five percent of the ocean, and even routine catches can yield startling mysteries. A fat, pink, “alien-looking” fish caught by a tourist fishing boat in 2016 led a race to identify the animal.
Jaime Rendon, captain of the Dr. Pescado, was alarmed when he caught the fish, which he described to the Pisces Sportfishing Fleet as having “raspy skin, three rows of tiny teeth, and three gill slits on each side of the head”. But what confused him the most were the strange, dark eyes.
Rendon was concerned that the fish belonged to an endangered species, so he released it alive. But as his pictures did the rounds of the internet, people chimed in with their guesses about its species. Eventually, when the photos were sent to marine biologists, they were able to determine that it was probably a swellshark (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum).
Despite its name, the swellshark is a species of catfish commonly found in the Eastern Pacific.
This one was difficult to identify because it was far pinker and fatter than a swellshark usually is. But marine biologists were able to come up with tentative explanations for both facts.
The fish’s pinkish-white color is probably a result of albinism or leucism (a condition where only part of the pigment is lost).
Since both conditions make it harder for animals to survive in the wild, it’s an exciting discovery!