A team of researchers from the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) have discovered that a species of fish in Thailand have the unique ability to walk and climb waterfalls in a similar fashion to tetrapods, which are four-footed mammals.
The species, cryptotora thamicola, is a type of cavefish that is also blind.
These cavefish exhibit what the researchers describe as a “tetrapod-like pelvic girdle in a walking cavefish.”
Brooke E. Flammang and Daphne Soares, both assistant professors at NJIT, were assisted in their research by Julie Mankiewicz who is a post-baccalaureate volunteer. Apinun Suvarnaraksha also aided with the research and is a member of the Faculty of Fisheries Technology and Aquatic Resources of Maejo University located in Thailand.
This ability has never been observed in other living fish species.
The four researchers believe that this discovery will be able to help in the study of how all species that walk on land made the transition from fins to limbs about 420 million years ago.
Flammang said that the cavefish has morphological features that before now have only been seen on 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,” Flammang said.
Researchers said that the discovery will not only help them study the species of fish itself, but will help future studies involving evolution.
All the findings of the researchers can be found in an article dated March 24, 2016 online.