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WATCH This Fish Climb a Cave Wall for Unknown Reasons

May 05, 2015 12:21 PM EDT
wall climber

(Photo : Geoff Hoese)

Nature never ceases to amaze. You may have heard of some fish that miraculously can walk on land. However, have you ever heard of a fish that can climb walls? Cave-diving experts in Ecuador recently stumbled upon that very scene, recording the first scientific evidence ever that proves this amazing behavior is real.

The fish, Chaetostoma microps, is a member of the armored catfish family (Loricariidae) from the upper reaches of the Amazon basin and is traditionally found in some hard-to-reach places. That alone may explain why this behavior hasn't been noticed until now. Their habitats are also very limited and specific, consisting primarily of shallow-watered caves in Ecuador and Peru.

Like many catfish, this impressive species boasts a powerful sucker-shaped mouth that allows it to attach to things like rocks and roots, even under torrents of fast flowing water. While attached, the fish can then feed on a stable diet of algae... and more algae.

Some relatives of C. microps are known to impressively climb open rapids and streams much like salmon climb fish-ladders, using their suckers for some added grip. However, that's nothing compared to their ability to somehow climb the slick and sheer face of a wet cave wall. (Scroll to read on...)

[Credit: Aaron Addison ]

"It's not too surprising to find another catfish that climbs rocks. What is surprising is the environment that they are doing it in," Geoff Hoese, a naturalist with the Texas Speleological Survey in Austin, recently told BBC News.

Hoese was part of the team that discovered and studied this amazing wall-climbing behavior in the Ecuadorian fish, and describes it in a paper recently published in the journal Subterranean Biology.

So why exactly are these fish climbing caves? Hoese and his colleagues are quick to point out that this unique behavior has only been observed in one cave, and any resulting inferences are purely speculation.

However, they add that the fish might have made a habit of spawning in caves only to follow flow-stones down and out of the protected habitats in adulthood.

"Greater dispersal to small pools in the upper reaches of cave systems may increase survivability in drought conditions," they wrote. "Predators may also be avoided by this behavior, as has been suggested for other taxa."

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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