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Blind fish that can walk on land discovered; Contain clues to evolution

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Researchers have discovered a blind fish that can swim in water and can walk on land too. The species holds importance as it can unveil key points about the evolution of life on Earth. The newly discovered cavefish has salamander-like limbs that enable it to climb waterfalls like tetrapod or an amphibian. It is for the first time that any fish with such anatomical features has been discovered by the scientists.

A team of researchers has found the cavefish named Cryptotora thamicola from the caves on Tham Maelana and the Tham Susa karst in northern Thailand. The two-inch-long fish is blind and uses its limbs for climbing rocks, waterfalls and walking on land. However, the species can also swiftly swim in the sea water.

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Lead study author Brooke Flammang explained that apart from limbs, vertebral column plays a major role in supporting the weight while climbing against gravity. Vertebral columns have enabled the cavefish to develop strong muscles attachment required for walking.

“This research gives us insight into the plasticity of the fish body plan and the convergent morphological features that were seen in the evolution of tetrapods,” Flammang added.

The discovery holds importance as the team of researchers believe that it can give a better insight into the evolution of species on the Earth. Analyzing features of the fish can reveal how sea animals evolved over a period of time and turned into land animals.

While there have been multiple cases of secondarily aquatic vertebrates, we only have fossil evidence of one period of time in which vertebrates emerged from an aquatic lifestyle and evolved terrestrial walking behavior,” said Flammang.

Further analysis is needed to find the missing link in the evolutionary process and unveil what actually happened 400 million years ago.

The study appeared in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

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