The blind cavefish can actually walk and crawl up waterfalls like a four-footed animal; researchers are calling it a major discovery.
It walks, it crawls, it’s a blind cave-dwelling fish that lives in Thailand and scientists have never seen anything like it before. Welcome to the world, little Cryptotora thamicola.
“Fishes have adapted a number of different behaviors to move out of the water, but none have been described as being able to walk on land with a tetrapod-like gait,” notes the study in which the new species is described. “Here we show that the blind cavefish C. thamicola walks and climbs waterfalls with a salamander-like diagonal-couplets lateral sequence gait and has evolved a robust pelvic girdle that shares morphological features associated with terrestrial vertebrates.” Wow!
The researchers from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), who observed C. thamicola walking on rough and smooth wet surfaces while out of water, say that the discovery has implications for understanding how land-walking anatomy evolved during the transition from fins to limbs, which began around 420 million years ago.
Of the novel anatomy seen in C. thamicola, researcher on the study Brooke E. Flammang says, “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.” She adds, “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.”