Bizarre Mystery Fish Identified: Species of the Week

This spotted armour gurnard (Satyrichthys rieffeli), sometimes called a type of searobin, may be the same species or at least closely related to a “mystery fish” caught in Borneo. Photograph by Jeffrey T. Williams / Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Fishes. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike

freshwater species of the weekEarlier this week, an angler in Borneo caught an unusual-looking fish, which caused quite a stir online. Reported the Borneo Post:

The mystery fish has a large head and is covered with sharp spines on the top and bottom of its body.

Its body gets progressively smaller towards the tail.

The fish measuring over one foot in length has two tusk-like spikes near its mouth.

Sapar Mansor, 43, from Taman Ceria, Permyjaya, caught the strange creature in the sea near Tudan.

“This is the first time in my life that I have seen this type of fish. I brought it home to my wife and informed her of the rare catch,” he told The Borneo Post yesterday.

To try to determine what type of fish Sapar had caught, Water Currents reached out to Zeb Hogan, a National Geographic contributor, fish expert, and assistant professor at the University of Nevada—Reno. Hogan wasn’t sure, but he reached out to Gene Helfman, a fish expert at the University of Georgia.

Via email, Helfman shared:

In all likelihood it’s a perestidiid armored gurnard, apparently in the genus Satyrichthys (good name, no?).  I can’t take it to species ‘cause there are a bunch of them (see  They are generally known as armored gurnards and are closely allied to our triglid searobins.  Good photos at and a general treatment at  I think some folks still place them in the Triglidae.

Sapar’s wife, Siti Kadariah, told the Borneo Post that she intends to dry the fish and keep it as a memento. Her children have taken to calling it “armor fish.”

“It is God’s gift and I and my family will keep the fish,” she added.

Note: Although this fish ended up being a saltwater species, I am including it in this series because it was caught close to shore, and because it’s still an interesting mystery.