KETCHIKAN (AP) — Ketchikan artist and fish enthusiast Ray Troll has achieved immortality in the world of ichthyology. A ratfish species found in the waters off New Zealand and New Caledonia in the southern Pacific Ocean has been named in Troll’s honor.
Ratfish researcher Dominique Didier Dagit, assistant curator of ichthyology at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, identified the Hydrolagus trolli as a unique species about a year ago. She said in a telephone interview Wednesday that she and Troll share a love for ratfish, so she decided to name her discovery for him.
“It’s kind of nice to be able to name a species for someone,” she said. ”I thought, ‘Here’s my chance to name a fish for someone who’s really interested.”
But, ”It kind of looks like him, (but) less facial hair.”
In a recently published paper about the new species, Dagit described Troll as an ”artist of fishes and one of the few true chimaeroid lovers of the world. ”This fish is named in his honor for his valiant efforts to increase ratfish awareness worldwide,” Dagit wrote.
The ratfish is a distant relative of the shark and varieties exist throughout the Pacific ocean, Dagit said. In Southeast Alaska waters, the Chimaera ratfish can be found sometimes to the annoyance of fishermen. The local ratfish has a spotted body and a long, rat-like tail.
Troll said his love affair with ratfish started about 18 years ago when he caught one while fishing and thought, ”What the heck is that?”He started researching the creature, learning that the fish dates back some 350 million years.
”They’re just so cool and weird looking,” Troll said as he described the protruding tenaculum on the male ratfish’s forehead. He referred to the protrusion as the ”girl grabber” because the male fish uses it to hold onto the female during mating.
Troll said he and Dagit met through their mutual appreciation for ratfish. ”It’s not a big world of ratfish enthusiasts out there,” he said. Dagit said she has studied ratfish for years. That experience helped her identify Hydrolagus trolli as a new species.
She said its unique characteristics include a lavender color and a longer-than-average nose. The trolli has other different features on its head, the sex organs are different and the number of spines and its skeletal structure set it apart from other ratfish. The new species is found at depths of about 3,000 feet off the coasts of New Zealand and New Caledonia, Dagit said. A paper about the discovery that she co-authored with Paris scientist Bernard Seret recently was published in the French scientific journal Cybium, which makes the name official.
Once a species is named, said Dagit, the name stays with the fish forever. ”Like immortality,” she said. ”And you don’t have to put it through college.”