Strange newly discovered cavefish can walk up cave walls

It's not everyday you see a fish that can walk, but just such a discovery was made by researchers with the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The cavefish was found in Thailand and features an unusual anatomy giving it the ability to climb its way up waterfalls — something researchers believe could help shed light on evolutionary changes that happened many millions of years ago. No other (living) fish have been discovered with this ability.

News of the discovery was made public today; the creature, shown above, has been dubbed the "Cryptotora Thamicola," and it shows "morphological features" that have only previously been found in tetrapods. The study describes the fish as having a "tetrapod-like pelvic girdle" that allows it to walk up walls with a" diagonal-couples lateral sequence gait." Which is a complicated way to say it walks like a salamander.

The discovery is interesting for a number of reasons, the most important of which is that it's the first time a fish has been found to have evolved tetrapod-like walking abilities. This isn't the first fish able to move out of the water and across land, of course — it's just that in those cases, the fish usually use a lot of flopping to get from one pond to another.

Said NJIT researcher Brooke E. Flammang:

It possesses morphological features that have previously only been attributed to tetrapods. The pelvis and vertebral column of this fish allow it to support its body weight against gravity and provide large sites for muscle attachment for walking. This research gives us insight into the plasticity of the fish body plan and the convergent morphological features that were seen in the evolution of tetrapods.

The evolutionary transition from fins to walking limbs took place during the Devonian period some 420 million years ago. This newly discovered cavefish could help shed light on how that process took place, lending a few more clues in the grand mystery that is life on Earth.

SOURCE: EurekAlert