They discover a fish that looks like a unicorn in the dark waters of a cave in China
The strange new specimen lacks scales or pigmentation, is blind, and has a horn-like structure protruding from its head.
Researchers are constantly finding new animal species, but one has recently surprised by its unusual figure, as it is a fish that has a protuberance that resembles the mythical unicorn.
A new study, published in the journal ZooKeys, describes the finding of a rare species of blind cave fish with a mysterious horn-like structure protruding from its head and lacking scales or pigmentation.
The strange new species called S. longicornus was found during an expedition in the dark waters of the caves of Guizhou, a mountainous province in southwest China, when researchers were looking for another type of fish.
The authors of the research were studying cave fish of the genus Sinocyclocheilus, fish found only in China, usually in small ponds shrouded in darkness, when they suddenly came across a totally different specimen.
The researchers discovered the new fish swimming in a small pond 1.8 meters wide and 0.8 meters deep, inside a mountain cave. The team collected specimens to take back to the lab for examination, unaware that they were collecting a never-before-seen species.
After comparing the fish with other known species and analyzing their DNA, the researchers realized what they had discovered: a completely new species that had not yet been discovered.
new fish dropped!! (Sinocyclocheilus longicornus)— laura (@Peachydew_) January 29, 2023
it's blind, has no scales and lives in caves. it was discovered in china, 2000 meters above sea level pic.twitter.com/TmlCYBNzvp
They seek an explanation of why it has a horn
According to the study, the fish measure between 10.5 and 14.6 centimeters and have two pairs of whisker-like barbels that they use to orient themselves in the dark. But perhaps its most interesting feature is the unusually long horn-like structure, which has no clear use and is not found in closely related species.
The name longicornus derives from the Latin words longus, meaning “long,” and cornu, meaning “forehead horn.”
Since species that live in the light do not have horns, it is likely that these appendages have something to do with living in the dark, but what their purpose is is unclear, the researchers write in the paper.
The most logical explanation would be that the horns help these fish to “see” in the dark, but their barbels already allow them to navigate their pool, which isn't very large, so it would probably require minimal navigation skills anyway.