World Of Warcraft Creatures Prowl The Waters Of Southern Australia

World Of Warcraft Creatures Prowl The Waters Of Southern Australia

Behold the Pink Handfish, one of 14 species of bottom-dwelling marine fish endemic of the waters of Southern Australia and Tasmania, or, as World of Warcraft players know them, Murlocs.

It’s easy to imagine the handfish as the inspiration for some of World of Warcraft’s most hated and beloved enemies. They’ve got the same hands and feet as the fantasy race, after all, as well as that striking crest, formed out of its secondary dorsal spine and a flap of skin.

One of the few species of marine life endemic to Australia, the handfish has been difficult to classify in the past, due to relative rarity of specimens. Take the Pink Handfish, pictured above. That picture was taken off the Tasman Peninsula in 1999, the last recorded sighting of the beautiful creature. The picture represents one of only four specimens on record.

The nine new species of handfish recently described by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research organisation brought the grand total of handfish species to 14, six of which are exclusively found in Tasmania, and one of which was “possibly collected in Tasmania by early European explorers, yet not recorded since”.

Unlike World of Warcraft’s Murlocs, handfish are relatively scarce. Two of the 14 known species – the Red Handfish and Ziebell’s Handfish – are listed as vulnerable to extinction under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, with the Spotted Handfish listed as endangered.

And that’s only the beginning of the handfish’s problems, according to fish taxonomist Peter Last of CSIRO.

“There is evidence of shallow-water species disappearing quickly, from being common in certain areas a few decades ago, to apparently being locally extinct in some areas,” Dr Last says.

“It’s not just two or three handfish species of concern. Our work has described nine new species, each with its own environmental niches and needs, and several of these appear to have very restricted distributions, and/or occur in very low abundance.”

With the various species extremely sensitive to environmental change and plagued with low breeding rates, perhaps one day World of Warcraft’s Murloc will be the closest anyone can come to seeing a wild handfish.

Nine new species for disappearing handfish family [CSIRO – Thanks Mark!]


  • Yeah, I don’t think Kotaku should attempt to talk about science or anything other than games. I’m not so sure that this fish is “One of the few species of marine life endemic to Australia” given that 80% of our southern marine life is endemic to Australia. Well done Mr Fahey, well done.

  • Haha ok someone either doesn’t know anything about australia… or missed a few science classes 😛

    Great story though, thats given a few of my mates laugh around the office

  • I hear this fish specie’s population is dwindling rapidly due to explorers killing them in the hopes of finding “Paht Lewt” =\

  • They originaly made their appearance in Warcraft 3, I guess since a huge factor of WoW players didn’t know there were any other WoW games, this is why Kotaku tagged it as a WoW creature and not a Warfract 3 creature?

    • This annoys me. War 3 players who think that all WoW players are idiots who never played anything beyond the first expansion. Newsflash: Most WoW players I’ve met are pretty dedicated Blizzard fans. Is it more accurate to tag this as Warcraft 3 where those who DID play it don’t recall the creep names? Or WoW where Murlocs gained the most exposure due to constant grinding?

      WoW is current, it’s relevant, 12 million play it. Compare this to War3 where more people actually play the dota spin-off than the actual multiplayer.

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