Chiapas catfish, Lacantunia enigmatica, placed in new family
A new catfish from Mexico is so weird that it's been placed in a brand new genus and family all of its own.
The new species, which has been named Lacantunia enigmatica, because it's baffled scientists so much, has been placed in a new family called the Lacantuniidae.
The catfish was discovered in Mexico's Rio Usumacinta river basin and represents a striking scientific discovery, not only because it's found in a well-fished river and reaches 50cm/20" in length.
The scientists who described the new fish in the latest issue of the journal Zootaxa say:
"This species approaches 0.5 m SL and is commonly fished by local people who call it "madre de juil" (meaning "mother of Rhamdia," another local catfish). Yet, ichthyologists missed this conspicuous fish until 1996 when one of us collected the first specimens for study in tributaries near the Chiapas-Guatemalan border.
"Although Lacantunia bears a superficial resemblance to North American Ictaluridae, our phylogenetic evaluation shows that the species is neither an ictalurid nor a member of any of the other 35 catfish families.
"Given its unresolved and apparently deep systematic position and provenance in one of the world's most historically complex biotas (Savage 1982, Miller et al. in press), Lacantunia is a phylogenetic and biogeographic enigma."
The new species was caught using a rod and line, and in gill nets, and is found in fast flowing waters and pools in the Rio Usumacinta.
If you have a fast Internet connection you might want to have a play with the DigiMorph 3D models for Lacantunia enigmatica.
For more details on the discovery see the paper: Rodiles-Hernandezi, R., Hendrickson, DA., Lundberg, JG and JM Humphries (2005) - Lacantunia enigmatica (Teleostei: Siluriformes) a new and
phylogenetically puzzling freshwater fish from Mesoamerica. Zootaxa.