This Newly Discovered Fish Has an Anus Behind Its Head

The cave-dwelling Amblyopsis hoosieri was discovered in Indiana, and is already on the endangered list.

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May 30 2014, 9:20am
Image: Zookeys

Congratulations, Indiana. You held Lebron James to a historically low number of points to stave off elimination from the NBA playoffs, and you just got a great new distinctive fish named after your state. Meet the Amblyopsis hoosieri, a cave-dwelling fish that doesn't have eyes, but does have an anus right behind its head.

Image: Zookeys

Now, before you get all imperious on behalf of us surface dwellers and call out this fish as being gross both in concept and execution, consider that it lives in cave streams in southern Indiana. I mean, no one's going to look their best after evolving under those conditions.

The study that details the fish, published in the journal ZooKeys, explains that A. hoosieri “is the first new cavefish species from the US in 40 years,” which is a little misleading. Other cavefish researchers have known about the A. hoosieri, but mistook it for its relative from south of the Ohio river, the Amblyopsis spelaea, which is more slender, if separated by just 27 mutations. The researchers found several lines of evidence distinguishing the two species, “based on external morphological features, molecular data and geography.” No explanation, however, about the advantage of having an anus way up there though.

One mild bummer to finding that these are two separate species is that it means the A. hoosieri swims into our human consciousness as an endangered species. As much as you'd think living in caves at the top of your food chain would insulate the cavefish from human intrusions, the A. hoosieri is vulnerable to agricultural sediment runoff and groundwater pollution from pesticides and herbicides.

None of the researchers involved in the study were actually from Indiana University, whose mascot shares a name with the fish, but it was named both in homage to the nearby school and also to the school's history of ichthyology (the zoological study of fishes). Once “the Mecca of North American Ichthyology,” Indiana University has since canceled the program, presumably after someone finally saw a map of where IU is located.

Anyway, congrats Indiana, and welcome, Hoosier cavefish. It's a good thing you don't have eyes, because the world you've just been connected to is no doubt as unfamiliar to you as you are to us.