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Meet a group of catfish new to scientists

The word catfish might call to mind the gray, slick-skinned, long-whiskered catch celebrated by sport fishers. But while it’s true that none have scales and all have whisker-like tentacles, catfish are actually quite diverse: roughly 2,900 species are found in freshwater and marine bodies around the world. In February, a group of researchers led by Field Museum scientist Lesley de Souza added six more to that number—all with some pretty funky-looking snouts.

NEW TO SCIENCE

The new species, discovered in South America, are part of the genus Ancistrus and commonly referred to as bristlenose catfish—a name that reflects the feelers on the face of the male fish.

ON THE NOSE

Both sexes have tentacles, but the male’s are much bigger, resembling larvae. Since the males protect eggs and larvae from predators, researchers think their larvae-like tentacles may play a role in attracting females.

Ancistrus amaris

Ancistrus leoni

Ancistrus saudades

Ancistrus patronus

Ancistrus yutajae

Ancistrus kellerae

LIFE & TIMES

RANGE Amazon and Orinoco river basins in Colombia, Guyana, and Venezuela
HABITAT
clear-water creeks, streams, and among rocks or woody debris in rivers
DIET
mostly algae; some other vegetation
THREATS
loss of habitat to mining, agriculture, and deforestation

ANATOMY

SIZE 3–6 inches long
HEAD SPINES
can be expanded in self-defense
BONY PLATES
cover the body, offering protection
MOUTH
functions like a vacuum cleaner to suck up algae

 

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World Wildlife magazine provides an inspiring, in-depth look at the connections between animals, people and our planet. Published quarterly by WWF, the magazine helps make you a part of our efforts to solve some of the most pressing issues facing the natural world.

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