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Cabo San Lucas mystery catch piques the interest of scientists

June 2, 2009 | 11:13 am

Capt. Jose Ramon Alucano displays what might be an unknown species of ratfish, or a species new to science altogether.

Tracy Ehrenberg, general manager of Pisces Sportfishing in Cabo San Lucas says the mysterious-looking fish caught off the Mexican coast May 19 aboard Minerva IV looks like "a seal, crossed with a baby marlin, that swallowed a chicken ... it has feet!"

Scientists who have inspected photos have identified the specimen as a ratfish, or a chimaera. However, there are different types of chimaeras and it's not clear which type this is or whether it might be a type new to science.

Scientists at Moss Landing Marine Labs in Monterey believe, based on the accompanying photograph, that it's a black chimaera.

The bizarre-looking creature, which does have what looks like feet and little toes, is stored in a freezer at Pisces but soon will be under study in La Paz.

"None of the local fisherman had any idea of what it was, not even those that have spent their whole lives on the sea," Ehrenberg says. 

Ratfish are deep-water denizens that bottom-feed on small invertebrates. But the fish at Pisces was plucked from the surface 11 miles south of Cabo San Lucas after it had been spotted unsuccessfully trying to dive.

It perished in the bait receiver on the trip to port.

--Pete Thomas

Photo: Capt. Jose Ramon Alucano displays what might be an unknown species of ratfish, or a species new to science altogether. Credit: Pisces Sportfishing

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