The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University and a committee of taxonomists from around the world announced their picks for the top 10 new species described in 2010. Among their top picks is Halieutichthys intermedius, a pancake batfish recently discovered by Dr. Prosanta Chakrabarty, curator of fishes at Louisiana State University’s'mMuseum of Natural Science, and colleagues. Halieutichthys intermedius, more commonly referred to as the Louisiana pancake batfish, gained some notoriety during the spring and summer of 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon oil spill affected their primary habitat in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the Top 10 writeup, the batfish was considered one of the top discoveries first because of its precarious existence due to the fact that its entire habitat was covered in oil from the spill, and second, because it is quite a unique-looking fish. "This species is one of only 70 or so of the 1,500 Gulf of Mexico species that is endemic (i.e., only found in the region). All the other species are found in the open Atlantic, Caribbean or other areas," said Dr. Chakrabarty. "Because of their limited distribution, endemics like this new species are of special concern. In a way, this new batfish has become the poster child for the aquatic life threatened by the oil spill. It reminded me both of how little we knew about the biota in the Gulf and also about how the spill can impact some species more than others." Dr. Chakrabarty, who also serves as assistant professor of biological sciences, discovered the new species after studying samples of batfish stored in alcohol-filled jars. It wasn't long before he and Taiwanese colleague Dr. Hsuan-ching "Hans" Ho, and American Museum of Natural History Curator Dr. John Sparks, noticed consistent differences among the specimens.
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