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Extremely Rare Eyeless Catfish Finally Gets a Name After 40 Years of Waiting

Feb 24, 2017 08:30 PM EST
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Two scientists from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University have finally given a name to a mini eyeless catfish that was first caught nearly 40 years ago.

The new species, describe in a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, was first caught during the U.S.-Venezuelan Orinoco Delta Expeditions in the Orinoco river, near Ciudad Guyana, conducted from 1978 to 1979.

"We knew what these fish were upon capture," said John Lundberg, PhD, emeritus professor in Drexel's College of Arts and Sciences and one of the author of the paper, in a press release. "But the devil is in the details."

Lundberg, together with the paper's lead author Tiago Carvalho from Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul was able to name and describe the new catfish species thanks to the help from ichthyological collaborators based in Brazil, Alabama and California.

To name the new species, the researchers conducted a careful and thorough examination and comparison of an existing species. The whole process takes some time and having only two available specimens did not make the process go any faster.

The researchers decided to name the tiny catfish Micromyzon orinoco, after the river where the specimens were collected.

M. orinoco is highly elusive and difficult to catch, primary because of their size and location. The larger of the two specimens only measured 15.6 millimeters long, while the other one is just under 15 millimeters. The mini catfish prefers to live at the remote bottom of South America's deep, big rivers, making it more difficult to find because they most probably bury themselves in the sand most of the time.

Due to their environment, which is in complete darkness, M. orinoco evolved to adapt to its harsh neighborhood. The catfish is almost pigmentless and don't have eyes.

The fish is the second known specie under Micromyzon. The first Micromyzon was first discovered by Lundberg and collaborator John Friel in 1993 and was named M. akamai.

Read Also: Weird Animals: Translucent Eyeless Catfish Spotted in Texas for the First Time  

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