Alien teeth and mystery bones: Fish leaves science floundering

Chris Davies - May 14, 2014
Alien teeth and mystery bones: Fish leaves science floundering

It’s the sort of fish that HR Giger might have had in his aquarium, a mysterious catfish with more teeth than you’d expect, that has left scientists scratching their heads and comparing it to Alien Xenomorphs. At only a few inches long it shouldn’t cause as many nightmares as the monster that stalked Ellen Ripley, but the odd skeleton of Kryptoglanis shajii is nonetheless causing sleepless nights among researchers at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.

The reason for that is the catfish’s strange bone structure. From the outside, the subterranean catfish looks much like others of its genus, but when the team peered inside it found a skeletal structure “completely unique among catfishes and all fishes as far as I know,” John Lundberg, PhD, who led the research, says.


Most noticeable is what has happened to the fish’s jaw. The face of the catfish has been compressed and the lower jaw pushed forward, exposing four rows of sharp, conical teeth.

They, the team suggests, are used to capture and eat insect larvae and tiny invertebrates, though Kryptoglanis – only identified as a new species in 2011 – still isn’t fully understood.

A detailed CAT scan has exposed the internal structure of the fish, but not which other species it’s most closely related to. Nonetheless, it’s not something many will ever come into contact with, having only been observed in the Western Ghats mountain range in Kerala, India.

SOURCE Drexel University

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