“Alien” Catfish Confuses Scientists
Ellisha Rader Mannering
A tiny catfish that is rarely seen by humans is baffling scientists who are trying to categorize it. The small catfish has a mouth full of teeth and a severe under bite.
The fish have not been studied much because they only live in the Western Ghats mountain range in Kerala, India. They usually stay underground but will occasionally be found in wells, springs and flooded rice paddies in the area.
The catfish species was not even categorized as a new species until 2011 because so few of them have ever been seen. Once the species was discovered, scientists became interested in learning more about it and began studying it more thoroughly.
“The more we looked at the skeleton, the stranger it got,” Lundberg, Drexel’s resident fish zoologist and a professor in the university’s School of Arts and Sciences, said in a statement. “The characteristics of this animal are just so different that we have a hard time fitting it into the family tree of catfishes.”
Although the catfish is similar to other species, scientists have found that it is missing several bony elements that are found in other catfish species and that fish’s bones have a unique shape.
Scientists also found that the fish feeds on small invertebrates and insect larvae. They are curious as to why it evolved to have so many teeth and a protruding bottom jaw.
The scientists plan to continue to study the small fish to determine among other things, why it is so different from other catfish species and which fish or animals it is closely related to. The studies could lead to the discovery of more catfish species in other remote locations.
What do you think of the new catfish species and why do you think it evolved to have so many teeth if it only eats insect larvae and small invertebrates?
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