Saturday, 18 September 2010

Wood-eating catfish discovered in Peru

A new species of armoured catfish that eats wood with spoon-shaped teeth has been discovered in a remote area of the Amazonian jungle in Peru.

Scientists from the US National Science Foundation made the discovery during an expedition last month to a national park in the Alto Purus area of northeastern Peru.

The fish, which reaches 70cm long (2ft 3 ins), have evolved "spoon-shaped teeth" specialised in scraping tree logs that fall into the river waters.

The indigenous people have long eaten the fish which they catch by shooting them in the water, but it is the first time a specimen has been caught alive to be studied by scientists.

Paulo Petry, a zoology professor at Harvard University, said the fish was found in an area bursting with biodiversity but also under threat from development.

"The particular specimens that we captured are the first that are fresh specimens, so we have the entire fish from which to take tissue samples," Dr Petry explained.

"They seem to be really tough to find and catch. You have to catch them with gill nets or cast nets, or shoot them. Since they eat wood, you're not going to catch them with a line."

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