An eyeless, pigment-less fish that lives in southern Indiana caves has been identified as a new species.
The Hoosier cavefish live north of the Ohio. It was originally thought to be the same species as a cavefish living south of the Ohio River in Mammoth Cave, but the two fish actually have different DNA.
Louisiana State University professor Prosanta Chakrabarty described the animal in a study published this week in the journal ZooKeys. He says this kind of DNA discovery has never been seen in cavefish before.
“The one from Indiana, the new one, has a functional rhodopsin gene so it still makes the proteins and everything it needs for vision, but it’s not actually doing anything because there are no eyes,” Chakrabarty says.
The fish’s scientific name is Amblyopsis hoosieri, named in part by the University of Kentucky researcher who discovered the species, Matthew Niemiller. He’s also a native Hoosier.
“Historically Indiana University was kind of a mecca for the study of fishes back in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s with Carl Eigenmann who was a professor of zoology there along with his wife Rosa as well as David Starr Jordan,” Niemiller says. “Another reason is I was actually born in Bedford, a Hoosier by birth, big Indiana basketball fan, so it was really fun for me to be able to name a fish species after the Hoosiers.”
The Hoosier cavefish is the first new cavefish species described from the U.S. in 40 years.