Some characters are too difficult to find. We found no differences between these two species.
Species identification in the fish lab.
A true fish specialist at work
Date:July 12, 2004
Author: John Galbraith (NOAA, NMFS,USA) Åge Høines (IMR, Norway)
Random thoughts on ichthyology and the human ear
Funny things go through your head when you are out to sea and your normal sleep schedule experiences major disruption. I found myself preparing to take a shower yet thinking of fishes (I guess I always think of fishes in one way or another). I thought of the difficulty of differentiating species, and how it is often harder to understand why certain species are different. At the same time, don’t ask me why, I thought of the human ear. Sometimes when you look for characteristic differences in a species, you may end up finding a feature that is seemingly random. You wonder how in the world that one character could ever really have any significance that might mean an evolutionary advantage. Why would natural selection favor something as simple as a single change of fin size for example? Getting back to the human ear, it struck me earlier in the day, as profoundly odd that the ear is shaped the way it is. Now I realize this is a strange thought, but after all, this is the deep blue sea. Sea monsters and mermaids are strange thoughts too, I’m just not as creative. I think of how weird the human ear looks.
At any rate, I thought “what function does it have”, “what advantages”? I dismissed this particular rumination abruptly with the answer “it amplifies or channels sound” – enough of that, back to fishes. How could every fish character have a significance, and is it really a selection pressure that causes this? As these thoughts became more complex, and the answers seemed more obscure, I thrust my head under the shower seeking relief. I immediately realized something that for over 30 years I had experienced but failed to notice…. I didn’t get water in my ears. My head was directly under a shower, but my eardrums stayed dry….hmmm. I guess that is one of the reasons that ears have a funny shape. So maybe every seemingly random fish character also has a function that may not be so obvious at first. The challenge is to find the right way of looking at these characters to understand what it is they do; what advantage it is that they give. I think that is part of what MAR-ECO is all about. I am contributing to a network of experts from 16 different countries. These experts have been looking at the sea and what lives in the sea with unique methods and unique perspectives. It is precisely because they have unique perspectives that they are experts. MAR-ECO is a synthesis of people who have thought outside the box trying to understand the world around them. It is an awesome, and humbling experience to be part of this project.
Highlights of the day: another successful ROV today as well as another trawl. We have now completed the second to last station in the southern study area. Our trawl was at a depth of approximately 2100 meters. Every catch has been spectacular, and this catch was no exception. We captured another specimen of large bottom dwelling fish in the group called ophidioids. There are many families and species in this group, that are not always easy to identify. This particular species is interesting in the sense that it has an unusual coloration for a deepwater fish. It is tan on top and lighter on the belly, much like a shallow water species.
Another highlight was the 1st major cleanup of the fish lab this trip. Of course there is cleaning after every station, but sometimes extra effort is in order. The fish people started to notice that after working in the lab for while, no one wanted to sit next to us. They sent a specialist to take care of the problem (see photo)!