Spotted Handfish  |  

Brachionichthys hirsutus

Status: Critically Endangered on the EPBC Act list

Spotted handfish are small, colourful, slow moving benthic (sea-floor dwelling) fish that are easily approached and photographed. Adults are typically 70–90 mm TL and grow to a maximum size of 143 mm. They use their illicium (modified dorsal fin ray) to attract food and to probe egg masses (DEH 2005u), sometimes extending and resting it on the seafloor.The species has a relatively short, rounded body that tapers towards the tail. The body is covered with tiny spines. The upper surface and sides of the head and body are white or pale pink, and they are covered with numerous orange, brown or black spots that have orange borders. The density of spots varies between individuals.The markings on spotted handfish are unique so it is possible to identify individuals within populations. Individual patterns of spots do not change with season, substrate type or behaviour although some changes in pattern can be observed over time as individuals grow (i.e. larger spots may break in two).

Government evidence of impact of climate change:

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  • Australian Government, Listing Advice, Brachionichthys hirsutus

    An increase in water temperature due to natural or anthropogenic causes; including climate change may also be a threat; as handfish held in aquaria appeared distressed at temperatures above 18 C (Gledhill and Green; unpublished).