New big-headed fish species discovered
1 Feb NBC News
A tiny fish characterized by a disproportionately large head and
previously unknown to scientists has been found in mountain rivers of
Idaho and Montana in what biologists said on Thursday marked a rare
discovery. The new aquatic species is a type of freshwater sculpin, a
class of fish that dwell at the bottom of cold, swiftly flowing streams
throughout North America and are known for their oversized head and
"The discovery of a new fish is something I never thought would
happen in my career because it's very rare in the United States," said
Michael Young, co-author of a scientific description of the find
published in the latest edition of the peer-reviewed journal Zootaxa.
Scientists with the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station
in Montana first encountered the new species while conducting a genetic
inventory of fish found in the upper Columbia River basin, said Young,
also an agency fisheries biologist.
At first, researchers were not sure they had stumbled on a
never-before-seen fish.But genetic testing and examination of key
physical differences proved that the specimens in question found in the
Coeur d'Alene and St. Joe rivers in northern Idaho and in a stretch of
the Clark Fork River in neighboring Montana were distinct from known
varieties of the bottom-feeding fishes.The fish has been named the cedar
sculpin, after Western red cedars that line streams in the Idaho
panhandle where it was first discovered.
Cedar sculpin differ from more common species by variations in spiny
structures that sprout from their heads, which may protect them from
predators, and the configuration of a line of tiny pores along each side
of the body which fish use to detect movements and compounds in their
environment, biologists said.