The bright orange-red fish was found at depths of 95 to 160 metres (310 to 525 feet), in waters close to Curaçao.
The fish, that is the deepest-living member of its genus in the western Atlantic Ocean, was discovered using a manned submersible – the Curasub, operated by the Smithsonian Institute’s Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP).
According to a new study published in ZooKeys, conventional scuba divers cannot go beyond depths of 30 to 50 metres below the water surface, but Curasub can go up to 300 meters, and is used by marine scientists to study the lesser-known tropical marine fishes and invertebrates occurring at those depths.
“The 50-300 metre tropical ocean zone is poorly studied – too deep for conventional scuba and too shallow to be of much interest to really deep-diving submersibles,” said Carole C. Baldwin, lead scientist of DROP.
“The Curasub is providing scientists with the technology needed to remedy this gap in our knowledge of Caribbean reef biodiversity.”
The scientists have named the newly discovered scorpionfish Scorpaenodes barrybrowni in honor of freelance photographer Barry Brown, who “has patiently, diligently, and expertly taken photographs of hundreds of fishes and invertebrates captured alive by DROP Investigators,” the authors write. “He has generously shared his photographs, and they have enhanced numerous scientific and educational publications.”
The fish’s common name is Stellate Scorpionfish, which the authors say is in reference to the star-shaped yellowish spots on the fish’s pectoral fin and radiating pigment markings highlighting its eyes.
So far, the Carasub has discovered a number of new species. “Stay tuned for more new discoveries,” Baldwin said in the statement.
“We have only scratched the surface of our understanding of the biodiversity of tropical deep reefs.”