Scientists discover bizarre blind fish “with unicorn horns” in the dark waters of a mysterious Chinese cave
RESEARCHERS have discovered a bizarre new species of fish that resembles a unicorn with a prominent horn protruding from the front of its head.
The fish, which is blind and also lacks scales or pigmentation, was found in pitch-black cave water in China’s mountainous Guizhou province in the south-west of the country.
The researchers dubbed the fish, which measures between 4.1 and 5.7 inches long, Sinocyclocheilus longicornus.
Details of the results were published in the journal on January 17 ZooKeys.
According to the study, the fish has two pairs of barbels, which it uses to perceive its surroundings.
Most notable, however, is the fish’s horn, which has puzzled Live Science researchers reports.
The fish’s name reflects the odd trait — longus means “long” in Latin, while cornu means “forehead horn.”
At the time of the discovery, researchers were studying cavefish of the genus Sinocyclocheilus, which are found only in China.
To date, 76 species of Sinocyclocheilus are known, and they likely share characteristics with the new fish.
These may include reduced eyes, dorsal fin rays, lateral line pores, and gill rakes.
Loss of sight occurs due to a process known as regressive evolution, which describes when a species loses useless traits over generations.
The fish’s horn-like structure may also be shared by some related species, although it likely varies in size.
“Horns variable or specialized morphological features of Sinocyclocheilus are closely related to the orogenically producing dark cave environments,” the study states.
“For example, horn-like structures (single or forked, long or short) or bulges at the back of the head, and degeneration or loss of the eyes.”
Based on the study, the research team hypothesizes that the horn’s evolution may have occurred in “at least two independent formations, a weakening event and a loss event.”
https://www.thesun.ie/tech/news-tech/10157430/scientists-discover-bizarre-blind-fish-unicorn-horn-cave/ Scientists discover bizarre blind fish “with unicorn horns” in the dark waters of a mysterious Chinese cave