A screen grab from Casey Piper’s underwater video showing the newly-discovered yodeling flounder voicing its cry on Blacktip Island’s Water Pump Reef Wednesday. (photo courtesy of Casey Piper)
A previously-unknown species of flounder, discovered by a Blacktip Island dive guide Wednesday, has scientists intrigued and some locals worried about the discovery’s impact on the coming hurricane season.
“Divers’ve been hearing a weird wailing sound on the reef for weeks, but no one could suss out what it was,” said Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner. “Then one of our divemasters got lucky. In a fish-life sort of way.”
“I heard a weird oooooo-aaaaaaa-oooooh sound, loud, right behind me, looked back and saw this big-ass flounder, with its mouth open, doing a weird flappy, break-dancey thing,” dive guide Casey Piper said. “It sounded like a slow-motion yodel. Sort of.”
Based on Piper’s video, local scientists determined the fish was a long-rumored species of yodeling flounder.
“You hear fishermen’s’ tales about flounderia yodelicus, but no one’s actually seen one,” said Tiperon University-Blacktip marine biology professor Ernesto Mojarra. “They’re the unicorns of the sea. This one seems to change pitch by fluttering its ‘wings’ and waving its top pectoral fin, like playing a theremin. You can hear it from the surface if you’re really quiet.”
Blacktip fishermen, though, say the fish and its yodeling are bad omens.
“Grandpa said that sound was the duppies warning about a bad hurricane season,” Antonio Fletcher said. “If Casey got video of it, well, I guess it’s a duppy fish, then. But storms are still coming.
“Thing is, one year Grandpa was out fishing and heard that moaning. He hooked a big-old flounder and the noise stopped,” Fletcher said. “Fed the family for days. And had no hurricanes that year. That’s no coincidence.”
Some locals see Fletcher’s story as a hint of how to ease storm season.
“Unicorn or not, I say the divers make themselves useful and spear this damn thing so we don’t have any storms,” storekeeper Peachy Bottoms said. “They do it with lionfish. What good’s a marine park if it won’t protect us from hurricanes?”
Blacktip Island Marine Parks officials opposed the suggestion.
“False causality aside, the park is here to protect all marine life,” marine parks spokesperson Val Schrader said. “We’re doubling up on patrols and will arrest anyone with a spear anywhere near the park.”
The scientific community backed Schrader.
“If anyone’s going to kill this flounder, it’ll be us, so we can properly study it,” Mojarra said.