Researchers Look In Tank And See Promising Cluster Of Nearly-Extinct Babies

There are only about 100 of these animals on Earth …

Recently, researchers at Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) peeked into a tank and saw something amazing. Floating in the water was a cluster of yellow blobs — tiny, critically endangered babies whose species the researchers have been working tirelessly to save from extinction.

“We’re delighted to announce the safe arrival of 21 baby red handfish,” IMAS wrote in a Facebook post about the fish.

red handfish hatchlings
Andrea Williamson

According to the Handfish Conservation Project, red handfish are extremely rare fish native to southeastern Tasmania. Researchers believe there are only about 100 adult red handfish currently alive.

Red handfish are unique, beautiful sea creatures. According to Australian Geographic, the fish get their name from their "apparent use of [their] fins as hands," which often makes it look like they're walking along the sea floor. 

Though this recent development might seem miniscule, the successful breeding of these hatchlings is an enormous achievement.

“Despite being a small clutch, this is actually equivalent to a quarter of the known wild red handfish population in Tasmania,” IMAS researcher Dr. Andrew Trotter said in a press release on the IMAS site. “It’s very encouraging to have successfully bred the species in captivity in two consecutive breeding seasons.”

fish with babies
Andrea Williamson

When these babies are ready, animal scientists are eager to get them into the wild, where they belong.

“Our aim now is to grow this year’s hatchlings into healthy sub-adults so we can release them and bolster the dwindling wild population,” Trotter said in the press release. “Ultimately, we want them to breed in the wild.”

baby fish
Andrea Williamson

Researchers are tentatively hopeful for these fish and are prepared for the uphill battle to come.

“We’re excited that the captive population and breeding program is making good progress,” IMAS threatened species and ecosystems team co-leader, Dr. Jemina Stuart-Smith said in the release. “But there is more to do.”