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Amazon 'mystery' fish is a new species - scientists

Scientists in Brazil's Amazon say they have discovered a new fish, and hope to categorize the small eel-like creature by the end of the year.

india Updated: Jul 04, 2003 10:39 IST
Reuters
Reuters
PTI

Scientists in Brazil's Amazon say they have discovered a new fish, something that has not happened for more than a century, and hope to categorize the small eel-like creature by the end of the year.

"It's a new species which will require us to create a new genus and a whole new family to accommodate it," Jansen Zuanon, head aquatic biology researcher at Brazil's National Amazon Research Institute, or Inpa, told Reuters on Thursday.

Swiss Inpa researcher Ilse Walker came across the fish in 1999 while carrying out research on shrimp in flood plains near Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state. Since then a team of four researchers have studied several specimen.

"It still doesn't have a name," Zuanon said. "We have been calling it the mystery fish because it didn't fit into any group... It's long-bodied with a mixture of characteristics which are quite different from any other Amazon fish group."

"A new family of fish hasn't been categorized in probably the last 150 years," the biologist said, adding that the discovery of new species was quite common.

The finding is the latest example of the diversity of the Amazon, an area of tropical forest larger than Western Europe that is home to up to 30 percent of the planet's animal and plant species.

The fish has a long thin body like an eel, but also has a full set of fins, Zuanon said. Although the carnivore only measures about 15 cm (6 inches), it has a tail like the Pirarucu, one of the world's largest freshwater fish.

Curiously it also has up to 10 air chambers, compared to the usual two or three that fish use to hold their position underwater, leading the scientists to believe it can breathe at the surface, Zuanon said.

"As far as we know it eats small shrimps and aquatic insects, it reproduces at the start of the rains, and has this extra breathing ability... and it doesn't just depend on oxygen that has been dissolved in the water," he said.

First Published: Jul 04, 2003 10:39 IST