A Rare Find!

The image, above, uploaded by Aalbert Rebergen - @aalbertrebergen (right image), shows a Slender Stargazer, Crapatalus angusticeps, washed up on the beach near Waikouaiti, New Zealand. The observation elicited an excited response from Zachary Robertson - @fiestykakapo, who stated that it is "one of my favourite species".
When I asked Zachary about his interest in this fish, he replied, "Crapatalus are typically very cryptic fish, often burying themselves in sand with only their eyes and mouth exposed. Crapatalus, like other members of Leptoscopidae, are ambush predators lying under the sand waiting for crabs, shrimp, worms, or small fish to wander by. Crapatalus inhabits shallow coastal beaches and occasionally river mouths and estuaries, and are capable of surviving 50+ metres. In New Zealand there are two species, C. angusticeps and C. novaezelandiae, to distinguish these species a good photo from the underside is needed. If the pelvic fin doesn't reach the origin of the anal fin the fish would be C. angusticeps, if the pelvic fin reaches past the origin of the anal fin the fish would be C. novaezelandiae."
Zachary also stated, "One reason for the rarity of the species on iNat is its cryptic habits, concealed in sand will make it almost invisible to the untrained eye. Its favoured habitat (open sandy beaches) isn't often explored which could be another reason this fish isn't observed often. Why this observation is particularly of interest for me is it gives me a good look at a freshly dead specimen, which I have not been able to find any online. I hope within the next year I am able to find some live specimens whilst snorkelling in estuaries or on sandy beaches, and get some nice images of live fish."
I really love the fact that an observation uploaded by Aalbert, who is "interested in everything that walks, hops or crawls" (note that 'swim' wasn't mentioned - we're onto you Aalbert!) sparked such enthusiasm in Zachary, a young aspiring marine biologist. It shows the power of iNaturalist and the Australasian Fishes Project community.
Thanks all for your interest in this unusual observation.
Posted on September 05, 2021 07:44 AM by markmcg markmcg


Wow what a great find @aalbertrebergen . Thanks for the comprehensive info on the species in NZ and how to identify them @fiestykakapo . I do hope you find some live specimens and get some good images to share!

Posted by redfishblue almost 3 years ago

Thanks for sharing @markmcg. Nice find @aalbertrebergen and I too hope you can find some live specimens @fiestykakapo. Yay fishes!

Posted by amandahay almost 3 years ago

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