Dactylanthias is a genus of large, very showy anthias that live in water so deep they are only rarely seen alive, usually through deep diving submersibles and ROVs. For the most part the majority of photos of Dactylanthias are of freshly reeled up specimens with clear distress from decompression with eyes bugging out, a distended belly and a fisherman’s thumb in its mouth.
But more recently a large intact specimen of Dactylanthias aplodactylus was collected by a fisherman in Nauru and made available to taxonomists John Pogonoski and Anthony Gill which they used to revise the species and the genus beyond its original description in 1858.
The Nauru specimen is quite the looker with a standard length of 221mm or just under nine inches long, not counting a pair streamers on its tail fin that just seem to go on forever (or at least another few inches). At this large adult size the fish is a very showy specimen with all the trappings of a beautiful Odontanthias with filaments on the dorsal and anal fins but with a red coloration more reminiscent of Sacura species.
Perhaps the most astounding feature of the examined specimen is its sizable extended mouth that is more like a predatory Bodianus hogfish, paired with respectable dentition that makes us believe this Dactylanthias has a taste more for small fish than typical zooplankton. Most of the Dactylanthias specimens have been caught at depths between 200 and 240 meters, 656 to 787 feet and we know they can live even deeper so freshly caught fish from hook & line will be the best look we can get at these fascinating deep sea fish for the time being. [ZooTaxa]