Spotted handfish

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The spotted handfish (Brachionichthys hirsutus) is a rare Australian fish from the family Brachionichthyidae. It is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List 2002. It is a benthic fish usually found at depths of 5 to 10 m, with overall sightings varying from a minimum of 2 to a maximum of 30 m deep. The spotted handfish is unusual in that it has highly adapted pectoral fins, which appear like hands (hence the name) and allow it to walk on the sea floor. It has a highly restricted range, being found only in the estuary of Derwent River, Tasmania, and nearby areas.

The handfishes are a unique, Australian family of anglerfish, the most speciose of the few marine fish families endemic to Australia. Handfish are unusual, small (up to 120 mm in length), slow-moving, benthic fishes that prefer to ‘walk’ rather than swim. Their pectoral fins are leg-like with extremities resembling a human hand (hence their common name). Females are believed to reach sexual maturity after two to three years at lengths of 75–80 mm.

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