Unicorn-like blind fish discovered in dark waters deep in Chinese cave


A living specimen of the new species, Sinocyclocheilus longicornus, in a laboratory tank. (Image credit: Xu et al. 2023)

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Lurking within the dark waters of Chinese caves is a bizarre fish species that has an uncanny resemblance with mythical equine creature. The newfound fish weirdos, which researchers discovered hiding in a pitch-black pool the size of a kitchen table, have no scales or color, tiny rudimentary eyes that likely cannot see anything and an unusually large horn jutting out of their foreheads, a new study reveals. 

The researchers found the drab, unicorn-like fish while surveying cave fish from the genus Sinocyclocheilus. Fish in this genus are found only in China, usually within small pools that are shrouded in darkness. There are 76 known species of Sinocyclocheilus, most of which share similar characteristics with the newfound species, such as reduced or no vision, a lack of scales and no pigmentation. However, only some Sinocyclocheilus fish possess a horn, and others have lost their eyes completely in a process known as regressive evolution, in which species lose complex features over generations. There are also a handful of Sinocyclocheilus species that live in illuminated waters and lack the unusual features associated with their freaky cousins. 


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