Thursday, June 3, 2010

Dracula Minnow

Recently I wrote about the vampire squid, and I argued that I really didn’t have to look any further for a more flashy, eye-grabbing title. I stand corrected. A group of scientists recently discovered a new minnow, and it has got a pair of choppers projecting from its jaws that earned it the name ‘dracula’. International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University recently named it one of the top 10 new species of 2010.

Measuring just 17 millimeters long when fully grown, this little minnow, while tiny, is a close relative of the common goldfish, the carp, and the other minnows you might have known from childhood. Many of your pet store variety fishes are in this group of carps and carp-like fishes. And, if you have looked closely at Goldy residing in your child’s fish bowl, you might have noticed Goldy has no teeth. This group of fishes has been around for a long time, and, in fact, lost anything even resembling true teeth nearly 50 million years ago. But, the dracula minnow has developed bony spurs on its jaws that project through the skin and look just like nasty fangs.

Just the male has these fangs. Why? It is completely unknown. This little fish is completely transparent. And, it is so small because its development was apparently truncated somehow. So, the adults look like they are still larval fishes. They possess at least forty fewer bones than other closely related adult fishes.

Other species on this list include an amazing carnivorous (yep, meat-eating) sponge, and bug-eating slug, an electric fish, a psychedelic frogfish, a tiny new mushroom with the scientific name Phallus (I’ll let you Google it to see why it earned this name, though you probably don’t have to think too hard to figure it out), a new species of yam from Madagascar, a giant orb-weaving spider in which the female is four times larger than the male (they managed to figure out the male and female were of the same species), a deep-sea worm that shoots glowing green blobs of goo at its predators, and a giant carnivorous pitcher-plant the size of a football.