MYSTERY surrounds a small flatfish caught from Southend Pier by local angler David Collins.
Seventeen-year-old David was fishing for dabs from the pier head when the nine-inch fish accepted his squid strip bait.
From the underside the fish looked like a dab with a pearlescent look to the scales.
But from the top the fish looked like a flounder with slightly larger eyes and small spiky teeth.
The skin of the fish was smooth both ways, unlike a dab which feels rough from tail to head, or a flounder which has rough patches at the front of the lateral line.
David showed the fish to Mick Toomer and Southend Angling Centre proprietor Rory Coase, but neither of them could identify it.
Toomer said “I’ve never seen one before, either in the UK or anywhere else. My gut feeling is that it’s a hybrid, possibly a dab-flounder cross.
“Hybrids are very rare in the sea, but not totally unknown.”
Puzzled by the fish Toomer took it to a friend of his, Oliver Crimmon, Curator of Fishes at the Natural History Museum.
The pair spent two hours examining the strange specimen in the London museum’s fish laboratory.
They compared its features to all of the species known to frequent UK waters, but were unable to find a match.
Crimmon is now circulating its details to other fish experts in museums and laboratories across Europe, hoping one of them may have the answer.