6 Nov 2014
Should an albino ratfish be washed up on Runswick beach? (Repost from 2008*)
Because I found this one washed in by the rising tide on Runswick Bay beach this afternoon. Any ratfishologists out there who can tell me whether I should be excited by finding one of these looking suspiciously albino in the North Sea? Either leave a comment or scroll down to find the email link.
I know enough of the local fish to know that I didn't recognize it, so decided to bring it home. The sight of me carrying the thing by its whip-like tail caused a certain amount of interest among the kids on the beach and I should like to apologize to the parents whose kids I allowed to hold it: it turns out that the dorsal spine is venomous (Only mildly so - I hope the ammonite I gave them makes up for it.)
These creatures are called chimaeras and the Wikipedia page about chimaeras shows this to be an interesting find: for a start it's a cartilaginous fish but with some characteristics of bony fish, and normally found in temperate oceans (the North Sea's surface temperature is currently 6 centigrade).
They are also normally coloured black or brown, with the exception of one albino fished up in Puget Sound last year, and unique among the University of Washington's 7.2 million specimens. The Runswick Bay ratfish is pretty white, too. Someone on the beach speculated that it should have been darker and suggested that it had been dead a few days. I doubt that - the crabs and lobsters hereabouts about would have made short work of it and it's not at all chewed up. The order dates back to Devonian times (416-359 mya).
And finally here's a face only a mother could love:
* Some years ago Blogger inexplicably ate a lot of my photos. I've just found the archived photo library and will be restoring photos to posts as and when I can.