Scientists describe new species of see-through fish from the Amazon
April 03, 2013
Scientists have documented an entirely new genus of fish from a river in the Amazon rainforest.
The fish, dubbed Cyanogaster noctivaga or the blue-bellied night wanderer, is described in the journal Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters. The species may have gone undiscovered in one of the Amazon’s most studied tributaries — the Rio Negro — because it is nocturnal, tiny and transparent. With a maximum length of 17 mm, it is one of the smallest known vertebrates, measuring only 7 mm more than the world’s tiniest fish.
“It is a strange little animal, completely transparent with an otherwise unique color pattern,” said study co-author Ralf Britz, an ichthyologist at London’s Natural History Museum.
Another reason the night-active Cyanogaster noctivaga may have been undetected is its habitat: the highly acidic blackwater of the Rio Negro. The river is so dark due to dissolved tannins that it is often likened to a cup of well-brewed black tea.
“The Rio Negro in Brazil, like the Asian peat swamp forests, has acidic blackwaters and like the peat swamps, it harbors a large number of miniature species,” Britz explained in a press release. “Small size seems to be favored in mineral-poor water and Cyanogaster is another example of this rule.”
The authors placed the species in its own genus after they determined the fish has a unique arrangement of teeth relative to others in the tetra family.
“All other members of the subfamily Stevardiinae and actually most members of the family Characidae have a different number and arrangement of teeth,” Britz said. So this helps to demonstrate that our little ‘bluebelly’ is something quite different, a new genus.”
CITATION: Mattox, G.M.T., Britz, R., Toledo-Piza, M. & Marinho, M.M.F (2013). Cyanogaster noctivaga, a remarkable new genus and species of miniature fish from the Rio Negro, Amazon basin (Ostariophysi: Characidae). Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 297-318.
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