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Cave creature — with transparent fins — found swimming in China. It’s a new species

In the shadowy waters of a cave in China swam an “elongated” creature. The scaly animal glided along the stony ground with see-through fins. Passing scientists spotted the cave-dweller — and discovered a new species.

Researchers first visited the Xīniú cave in southwestern China as part of a wildlife survey in January and February, according to a study published Nov. 28 in the journal ZooKeys. This region is a “well known ... hotspot of biodiversity.”

Xīniú cave is a “vertical cave,” about 160 feet long, and fed by an underground river, the study said. Those living in the nearby village use it as a “source of domestic water.”

While surveying the cave, researchers said they found 11 fish with transparent fins living inside. The fish turned out to be a new species: Balitora anlongensis, or the Anlong stone loach.

Anlong stone loaches have an “elongated” body and can reach about 2.4 inches in length, the study said. They have “blunt” heads, small eyes and “short” snouts with eight whisker-like barbels around their mouths.

A Balitora anlongensis, or Anlong stone loach, as seen in an aquarium.
A Balitora anlongensis, or Anlong stone loach, as seen in an aquarium.

A photo shows the Anlong stone loach in an aquarium and in its natural habitat. It has a sleek, brown body and see-through fins. This coloring seems to blend in with the cave’s rocky ground.

A Balitora anlongensis, or Anlong stone loach, as seen in its natural habitat.
A Balitora anlongensis, or Anlong stone loach, as seen in its natural habitat.

Another photo shows the fish’s belly, which researchers described as “pinkish” in color.

Researchers said they named the new species after the area where it was discovered, Anlong County. This county is in Guizhou province and about 1,100 miles southwest of Shanghai.

So far, Anlong stone loaches have been found only in Xīniú cave, the study said.

The underside of a Balitora anlongensis, or Anlong stone loach, as seen in an aquarium.
The underside of a Balitora anlongensis, or Anlong stone loach, as seen in an aquarium.

The new species was identified by its whisker-like barbels and its fin size, arrangement and color, the study said. DNA analysis found the new species had a “large” genetic divergence, between about 7% and about 12% divergence, from other stone loaches.

The research team included Tao Luo, Zhi-Xia Chen, Xin-Rui Zhao, Jing Yu, Chang-Ting Lan, Jia-Jun Zhou, Ning Xiao and Jiang Zhou.

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