The Conabin Fish was named after its discoverer Augustus Conabin, a naturalist on a British exploration vessel. Conabin’s crew took shelter from a Pacific gale in the lagoon of an atoll that the captain named Sarah Anne Island after his eldest daughter. The ship was there long enough for the naturalist to go ashore and collect specimens. Most were unremarkable palms and crustaceans, but a large stream flowing from a freshwater lens yielded a distinct-looking species of what appeared to be a freshwater triggerfish. It was brightly colored in a dazzling pattern according to Conabin’s notes, and fed off small shrimp and other invertebrates in the soft sand.

It was only years later, when the British Navy attempted to press a claim to Sarah Anne Island, that it was found to have vanished, with no trace of the island in its reported position and soundings indicating over a mile of ocean below. Conabin’s specimens were dug out and examined; though badly discolored and damaged by preservatives, experts concurred that they resembled no known species.

It represents one of the most enduring mysteries of zoology to this day.

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