SYDNEY, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- Scientists have identified a new species of fish after finding some rare samples at a local seafood market north of Brisbane.
On the hunt for the mysterious rock cod for almost two-decades, Ichthyologist Jeff Johnson from the Queensland Museum told Xinhua on Thursday, "I had received inquiries from commercial fishermen and fisheries patrol officers for quite some years, dating back to about the year 2000."
"I had received photographs of an unknown species that occasionally turns up in their catches, but these weren't sufficient to confirm my suspicions that it was a species unknown to science."
Named Epinephelus fuscomarginatus, its lack of distinguishing features is actually what makes it so unique.
"It's very plain colored with quite a uniformed coloration," Johnson said.
"It's just a plain grey-brown color whereas most other cod groups in that same family have fairly distinctive markings, spots, bars, stripes or some sorts of other markings that make them readily identifiable."
Finally getting his hands on some samples of the new species back in 2017, it's taken over two years for researchers at the Queensland Museum to formally describe the fish.
With 91 other recognized species of rock cod or groupers as they are known internationally, the team began the painstaking process of comparing every individual fish against their new discovery.
"We had to go through each one of those 91 and make comparisons on colorations and measurements, and then later examine their DNA profiles to confirm it wasn't a species that had already been named," Johnson explained
"To do that, I had to acquire all the literature and I had to borrow specimens from other museums."
"I had a trip to Western Australia to examine specimens in the West Australian Museum. I borrowed specimens from museums in Japan and various other collections within Australia and I had to acquire the DNA profiles from various other closely-related species."
"Some of those were available on an international database and others had to be acquired through colleagues and other institutions throughout the world."
Found in waters over 200 meters deep between Fraser Island and the tip of Swains Reef in the Great Barrier Reef, Johnson said, "They've probably been turning up from time to time and going through the markets without having a particular name."
"I can't tell you personally what they taste like because after waiting so long to get some specimens to describe the species I obviously didn't get the opportunity to eat them, but the fishermen tell me they're very good to eat and they sell for quite a good price at the market," he said.