Richard Butler | Exclusive Report by MOIRA RITTER of MIAMI HERALD | 17TH OCT, 2023

Nearly 30 years ago, several deep-sea creatures were captured from the depths of the Pacific Ocean near Vanuatu. They sat in storage for decades, until recently when researchers revisited them — and realized they were a new species of scorpionfish.

The new species is known as Neomerinthe harenartis, or the Vanuatu scorpionfish, according to a study published Oct. 7 in Ichthyological Research. It was discovered when researchers examined four specimens collected off Malekula Island, which is east of Australia, in 1994.

The fish range in size from about 3.83 inches to about 4.86 inches long, the study said. They were collected from between approximately 630 feet underwater to about 985 feet underwater.

Neomerinthe Neomerinthe sp1

Researchers described the species as having a shallow and compressed body with a steep snout. The creatures are yellow with scattered black blotches and semi-translucent fins.

Vanuatu scorpionfish have a “large” mouth, the study said. Their upper jaws are filled with a band of “short, conical teeth,” with pointy tips. The species is only known to live in the southwestern Pacific Ocean in Vanuatu, researchers said.

Experts named the fish by combining the Latin words “harena,” which means sand, and “ars,” which means art, according to the study. The species’ name references the pattern on the fish’s bodies, which resembles sand drawings that are traditional in Vanuatu.