To be fair, Australians already confront crazy-looking (and deadly) animals on a daily basis, so it probably never occurred to them to question a fish that tasted pretty okay and didn’t kill anyone once ingested.
They probably didn’t expect to find out, though, that literally no one had ever heard of or seen the fish before, anywhere in the world.
Well, at least not before 2000, when a fisherman sent pictures of a mystery grouper to fish expert and Queensland Museum curator Jeff Johnson. But even though he saw images of the strange fish a few more times over the years, it wasn’t until 2017 that he got his hands on a physical specimen.
He nabbed 5 of them, actually, at a Brisbane fish market, and set to work identifying the apparently yummy swimmer.
“As soon as I saw them, I thought they were probably a new species, so I purchased all five and began the hard work of formally proving they were a new species,” he said in a statement. “I’ve been told they are quite tasty.”
He and museum geneticist Dr. Jessica Worthington Wilmer worked together to confirm his suspicions, and the new species was named Epinephelus fuscomarginatus.
The new subspecies of grouper isn’t so distinctive looking that people with untrained eyes would notice it straight away, and given that most groupers are fairly generic-looking fish, it’s understandable – if slightly worrying – that no one consuming it gave it a second thought.
The Epinephelus fuscomarginatus is about 27 inches long and lives about 750 feet down along the center of the Great Barrier Reef.
This grouper, interestingly, is not the only species to recently be discovered on its way to someone’s plate. In 2011, a new species of shark was discovered in a Taiwanese fish market, and in 2018, a different shark, thought to be extinct, showed up in a market in Mumbai.
In 2010, researchers discovered a species of monkey that sneezes when it rains, but lost their specimen when the locals in Myanmar ate it.
Oops. Dinner takes precedence over science, you know. I’m not even mad.