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Reef Report for Wednesday, July 28, 2004

World’s Smallest Fish Discovered on the Great Barrier Reef

We have all heard fish stories, but usually they involve the teller widening his arms’ as wide as possible. In this case, the teller would have to hold their thumb and forefinger as close together as possible!

Today the Australian Museum announced the discovery of the world’s smallest fish. This newly described species, known as the Stout Infantfish, was discovered during a survey at Lizard Island, located on the Great Barrier Reef north of Cairns.

At full adult size this fish is just 7mm in length and 1mg in weight, which is tiny, in fact the word "tiny" on this page is longer than the fish! Not only is this the smallest species of fish, but it would also easily qualify as the smallest vertebrate in the world.

As it is newly discovered, not much is known about the fish’s life cycle. It is thought to live for only eight weeks, and never develops fins, teeth, or scales. It has been given the scientific name Schindleria brevipinguis, an interesting name, as it translates from Latin to short and stout. While "short" definitely fits we find it hard to find anything this small being thought of as being stout, but compared to closely related and nearly as small species found elsewhere, it is stout.

Oddly enough, the largest fish in the world is also found on the Great Barrier Reef. The Whale Shark can grow up to 18 meters in length and weigh up to 7.000 kilograms. It would take 7 million Stout Infantfish to weigh as much as a whale shark, and 2,500 of the lined up end to end to be as long as one of these big lads!

Only six fish of these tiny fish have ever been seen, and this discovery only adds to the incredible diversity of life on the Great Barrier Reef. Expect many more discoveries in the future, as most of the thousands of reefs that comprise the Great Barrier Reef have yet to be thoroughly explored. Look carefully when you dive on your visit, it’s entirely possible you might be looking at something no one else has ever seen!

Learn More:

From the Australian Museum.

From the Sydney Morning Herald.

(C) DiveTheReef The weekly reef report is written by Joel Groberg of DiveTheReef.com, who compiles them from the many conversations he has with dive staff in the area, as well as  many other local sources in the dive community.

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