The spotted handfish (Brachionichthys hirsutus), an amazing creature that walks the ocean floor, is a rare Australian fish from the family Brachionichthyidae. It is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List 2002. is the first Australian marine species to be threatened with extinction.

The greatest threats to the handfish appear to be siltation and invasive species. The Derwent Estuary where the fish lives is highly urbanised and industrialised, and a range of marine pests have been introduced through shipping.  One key pest is the Northern Pacific Seastar (Asterias amurensis), a particularly large and voracious predator that is now abundant in the estuary. Studies by CSIRO show that the seastars eat the stalked ascidians that the handfish use to attach their eggs.


Slowly swimming starfish


Hey, look! It’s a starfish. A starfish that doesn’t look like a fish OR a star.

The Cushion Star (Culcita) is a peculiar, Indo-Pacific starfish.

The very biggest ones might reach as much as a foot across and they look like they might reach almost as tall!

They’re so ridiculously bloated you can’t actually discern their arms. They just look like a big blob hanging out on the corals and sponges they eat.

The cool thing is they come in a vast array of colours, from reds and yellows to blues and greys, so there’s a Cushion Star for every sofa!

… Images: Patrick Randall/John Turnbull/James Lynott/Ed Bierman


This surreal animals is Scotoplane globosa or “sea pig”. here, accompanied by a (probably) group of tanaid crustaceans.

Scotoplanes live on deep ocean bottoms, specifically on the abyssal plain in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean, typically at depths of over 1000 meters. Scotoplanes are deposit feeders and obtain food by extracting organic particles from deep-sea mud

Sea pigs are a type of sea cucumber, belonging to the holothurian class of the Echinodermata phylum. Echinoderms include such other animals as starfish, brittle stars, sea urchins and feather stars.