Newly Discovered Clingfish Has Unusual Set Of Teeth

Posted: Apr 18 2017, 8:21am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

Newly Discovered Clingfish has Unusual Set of Teeth
The head of the Duckbilled clingfish. Credit: Kevin Conway and Glenn Moore

A new species of toothy clingfish found in museum collection

While new species are mostly discovered during recent on field studies, some are indentified in museum collections where they spent decades before someone notices any unusual thing about them. Such is the case of a new clingfish species found at a museum which remained preserved in jar for more than 50 years.

A team of researchers from multiple institutes discovered the new species while looking through specimens placed on shelves at the museum in Welshpool, Australia. The fish was initially confused with hundreds of other clingfish species preserved in the museum but analysis confirmed that it was a new, separate species of clingfishes – a group of fishes that can hold onto rocks by using suction cups on their body. The new fish is distinguished from other species of the group by its tooth collection. Unlike other clingfish species, new clingfish houses an impressive number of teeth.

"This fish has characteristics we just haven't seen before in other clingfish. It's the teeth that really gave away the fact that this is a new species.” Lead author Kevin Conway, a fish taxonomist and associate professor at Texas A&M University, said.

Researchers have named the new species "duckbilled clingfish" (Nettorhamphos radula) for its broad, flat snout.

Clingfish’s ability to stick to rough surfaces always holds fascination for researchers. The small fish uses suction forces to hold up to 150 times its own body weight that can easily beat man-made suction cup. Understanding their design could lead to the manufacturing of improved suction devices and instruments.

The team of researchers was going through the clingfish species at the museum when they stumbled across a unique specimen. The fish was only as big as a human finger but it had unique set of teeth that did not match any previously known species. Researchers decided to get a better look at the specimen. They imaged it with a CT scanner and created 3D printed model of the fish. The noninvasive technique allowed researcher to study the fish in greater detail without destroying the actual fossil. Researchers confirmed they have discovered a new species of clingfish.

“This CT scan allowed us to take a completely noninvasive look at the entire skeleton of the fish, and it produced a gorgeous set of morphological photos that you couldn't get from dissection. It's a testament to the importance of using these noninvasive methods of data collection.” Adam Summers, one of authors of the study from University of Washington said.

The species is currently represented by two specimens only. The newly discovered clingfish is so unusual that researches could not place it in any existing genus. Therefore, it has been assigned a new genus.

“A discovery like this highlights the importance of museum collections and reminds us just how much lies waiting to be uncovered," said co-authorGlenn Moore of Western Australian Museum "Finding a previously unknown specimen in a jar is exciting, but our collections of identified specimens are equally important so that we have something to compare against."

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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