The smooth handfish (Sympterichthys unipennis) that used to be commonly found off the Tasmanian coast has been declared extinct. It was a fish with bulging eyes, a mohawk-like fin on its head and the ability to walk on the seafloor with its pectoral and pelvic fins. This is the first modern marine fish on record to completely vanish, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
200 years ago the smooth handfish was so plentiful. It was the first fish species to be scientifically documented Down Under. In 1802, French naturalist François Péron nabbed the first specimen of the odd-looking creature with a dip net in south eastern Tasmania, a feat that worked because handfish live in shallow waters. Now this is the only smooth handfish scientists have left to study. It’s not that researchers haven’t been looking. Despite extensive underwater surveys along the Australian coastline, the smooth handfish hasn’t “been sighted for over 200 years. Péron was the only scientist on record to collect one, according to a 2017 study in the journal Biological Conservation.