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Explanation for ‘alien’ fish

A strange, alien-like sea creature washed ashore at a Strand beach and piqued the interest of many. Images of the creature were posted on Facebook.

Leonora Crous took to the social media platform with photos of a “creepy” fish with an apparent red mucosal membrane that had washed up in the vicinity of Fleur Park last Thursday (30 January).

By Tuesday afternoon more than 50 people had reacted to the post, which also garnered more than 70 comments, most guessing the fish species it belonged to.

To satisfy the curiosity of its readers, DistrictMail looked into the matter. According to Gregg Oelofse, the City of Cape Town’s Coastal Management manager, the fish is a chorisochismus dentex, a rocksucker or giant clingfish.

Oelofse said that the species is endemic to the coast of South Africa, Namibia and Angola.

“It has conical shaped teeth, eats limpets by levering them off the rocks, and looks alien when it starts to decompose.”

According to Wikipedia, the fish species inhabits the intertidal and sub-tidal zones, in shallow reefs and rock pools, and is the only known member of its genus. These fish grow to a total length of 30 cm, and is the largest species in the clingfish family.

They vary in colour, but are typically mottled green or reddish. Dead and dried chorisochismus dentex are occasionally found by beachcombers, and their often red colour combined with their strange shape and proportionally large teeth have caused some to describe them as “sea monsters”.

Oelofse could not confirm the reason for this particular fish to have washed ashore is, but suspects it is due to possible natural mortality.

He advised beachgoers who happen to stumble across a living fish of this sort in future, to gently put it back in the water.

As an extra fun fact, he added, that the rocksucker breeds year-round with their eggs attached to the underside of rocks, which are guarded by the female.

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