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New Eyeless Catfish Found in Texas

The Guardian

Mexican eyeless catfish found in Texas may prove underground link between U.S. and Mexico.

Confirmed in the U.S. for the first time earlier this year, experts believe a rare species of cave-dwelling catfish from Mexico are making their way north. The new finding suggests that an underground cavernous connection between the U.S. and Mexico could be a very distinct possibility.

Prior to the find, the small translucent fish were only rumored to live north of the Rio Grande. The only known habitat for the fish, until the discovery, was beneath the Mexican state of Coahuila. The endangered fish, which measure a mere 3 inches long, had been confirmed only in waters fed by the Edwards aquifer.

The Mexican blindcat becomes the third species of blind catfish known in Texas. The others, the toothless blindcat and the widemouth blindcat, can be found deep in the aquifer below San Antonio. Like the Mexican blindcat, the two other varieties are also very small. The toothless blindcat measures only four inches in length, while the deadly widemouth boasts lengths of almost 5.5 inches.

The widemouth blindcat is thought to prey on small shrimp and even other blindcats like the toothless catfish. The widemouth is a tiny, aggressive version of its more commonly known and closest relative, the flathead catfish, which can be found in many North American waters and reach lengths of 5 feet.

The Mexican blindcat, like many other cave-dwelling fish and wildlife, has little need for characteristics common to their surface-dwelling counterparts. The need for eyes, as an example, is unnecessary in the darkness of the cave. Likewise, the fish have less need for coloration or camouflage, hence the light pink color.

After the discovery, some of the small Mexican blindcats were captured and transported to the San Antonio Zoo. The zoo houses special equipment and a laboratory designed specifically for use with cave-dwelling creatures.

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New Eyeless Catfish Found in Texas