Another monkfish washed up on San Diego beach – NBC 7 San Diego


Creatures from the deep reach the shores of San Diego. For most of us, this is the opening scene of a horror movie. But for Ben Frable, curator of rare fish at UC San Diego, it’s a “childhood dream come true.”

Last week, a 13-inch Pacific pufferfish – a rare deep-sea anglerfish found in the Pacific Ocean – was found stranded by a woman while walking on Swami’s Beach in Encinitas. Rescuers reported the find to scientists, who handed the “mostly intact” specimen into the hands of Frable and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s extensive fish collection.

“I first discovered monkfish in a Windows ’95 educational video game in elementary school, so it’s pretty exciting,” said the head of the marine vertebrate collection at Scripps.

Photos: Another creature from the deep in San Diego: a rare monkfish found on Encinitas beach

The black fish was a female Himantolophus sagamius, who you would recognize in “Finding Nemo” as the cave monster with a mouth full of teeth and a bioluminescent projectile to its forehead. Footballfish have generally been found in the sea swimming between 1,000 and 4,000 feet below the surface.

The Pacific pufferfish are the third deep-sea fish to strand in San Diego County last month, which means Frable – an ichthyologist aka a fish expert – has received numerous calls from NBC 7 lately.

On November 30, a cannibalistic deep-sea lancet fish washed up on the shores of La Jolla.

And a few weeks before, another Pacific footballfish – this one in disrepair and pinkish in color because it had probably been washed away by the sun – had been discovered on Black’s Beach. Unfortunately, this one was not part of Frable’s collection. It was probably washed ashore or eaten by other marine life.

Earlier this year, another Pacific footballfish was found in Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach. The specimen, which looks almost identical to the one Frable recently added to the Scripps collection, was recently on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History.

You’re probably wondering, “So three of these sea creatures have washed up on the Southern California shore in the past year or so? How about two in San Diego County in a month? This cannot be the case. this rare.”

According to Frable, the event certainly is.

“It’s pretty amazing that we’ve had three in the last year and only in Southern California because before that, the last time it happened in California, at least to our knowledge, that someone saw and brought to scientists was 20 years ago today.

This specimen was discovered on the shores of Del Mar Dog Beach in December 2001. It is one of three specimens of Pacific footballfish in Frable’s collection. (The third is a football fish found on Hawaiian beaches in the 1970s.)

In total, there are only about 30 specimens of Pacific footballfish in laboratories around the world. They have been found and collected by scientists in New Zealand, Japan, Russia, California, Hawaii, Ecuador and Chile, Frable said.

“This specific species of Pacific footballfish – there are actually 22 different species in the world – it’s the second most common,” Frable said. “So you can see how rare they are. There are 33 in total [specimens of Pacific footballfish found] and they are the second most common species out of 22. “

What brings the monkfish back to earth? Scientists have no answer.

“Unfortunately, we don’t really know why. We have so little information and so few data points that we can’t really make a decision,” Frable said. “I chat with colleagues who study coastal oceanography, I talk to other colleagues who work on monkfish and other fish, and I chat a bit to try to understand, to come up with ideas. But with these three data points, we can’t really draw any conclusions.

Frable will keep this deep-sea fish in a jar of alcohol and store it with about 2 million other fish specimens on compactor shelves in his large Scripps lab, which “looks like a cross between a storage warehouse. and a library “. It will be used when scientists need to compare and research monkfish.

With anglerfish, “there are all those questions again,” Frable said. And I think that’s what makes it really fascinating, especially studying these deeper water species that occur just off the ocean. There are these basic things that we don’t know about them – we don’t really know what they’re eating, we don’t know much about their reproductive systems. “

In total, Frable has specimens of around 6,000 species of fish dating back to the 1880s. And, he’s always looking for more. He urges all beach goers who encounter a rare find to contact Scripps.

Frable said that the very first description of an anglerfish by science was that of a footballfish specimen found by beach goers washed up on a Greenland beach in 1833. So you never know if you’ll make the next big one. discovery.

To report a discovery to Scripps:

  1. Report it to rescuers, who will notify Scripps
  2. Email Scripps at
  3. Contact Scripps through its social media platforms

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