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Newly Discovered Catfish Is Unique And Scary [Video]

Update Date: May 15, 2014 10:00 AM EDT

A tiny, toothy and subterranean catfish has been discovered in India's Western Ghats mountain range having a skeleton that defies any categorization. The fish, researchers say resembles the terrifying creature from the movie 'Alien'.

Dubbed "Kryptoglanis shajii", the catfish has a number of skeletal features e.g., a bulging lower jaw similar to a bulldog's.

Researchers are baffled by its strange, bony face and are yet to classify the odd species.

Researchers said the fish inhabits only one area in the world - the Western Ghats mountain range in Kerala, India. Although it lives underground, it emerges occasionally in the springs, wells and flooded rice paddies of the region.

"The more we looked at the skeleton, the stranger it got," Lundberg, Drexel's resident fish zoologist and a professor in the university's School of Arts and Sciences, said in a statement. "The characteristics of this animal are just so different that we have a hard time fitting it into the family tree of catfishes."

From the outside, Kryptoglanis shajii looks similar to other catfish, but a closer look inside the fish yields some surprising discoveries, Lundberg said.

Researchers used digital radiography and high-definition CAT scans to study Kryptoglanis' bone structure and found that fish is missing several bony elements.

However, even more surprising for researchers was that the shapes of the some of Kryptoglanis' bones were utterly unique among fished of any species. Those multiple, unique bone structures in one part of the fish's body could mean that there is a functional purpose behind all the strangeness, researchers speculated.

"In dogs, that was the result of selective breeding," Lundberg said. "In Kryptoglanis, we don't know yet what in their natural evolution would have led to this modified shape."

The mystery of Kryptoglanis also caused a stir among other researchers. Ralf Britz, a fish researcher at the Natural History Museum of London, led a separate study of the species' unique bone structure. The research was published in the March 2014 issue of the journal of Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters, CS Monitor reported.

The new study is published in the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

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