Blind Hoosier Cavefish: Freshwater Species of the Week

Hello, blind Hoosier cavefish. (Photograph by Matthew Niemiller)

As an Indiana Hoosier, I was thrilled to learn of this new species: the Hoosier cavefish (Amblyopsis hoosieri).

freshwater species of the weekDescribed this week, the Hoosier is the first species of cavefish to be named in the U.S. in 40 years, making its entry into the pantheon of known creatures even sweeter.

The small, blind fish can grow to 2.3 to 3.1 inches long (60 to 80 millimeters). Their big heads take up about a quarter of their total length.

The closest relative of the new fish lives to the south of its Indiana home, in Kentucky. A. spelaea has a more slender body and longer fins.

Although this fish group lacks eyes, due to living in total darkness, they can sense movement in the water. (See “Mexico’s Blind Cave Fish.”)

The Hoosier cavefish is named in honor of my alma mater, Indiana University, which is near the animal’s home and which has hosted memorable fish scientists.

The authors added, “The senior author of the manuscript is a fervent fan of Indiana Hoosier basketball, but the first author is an alumni of the University of Michigan and is not. Also notable is that the middle author of the publication is currently an undergraduate at Louisiana State University.”

Last week, I toured Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, so I got a first-hand look at how challenging cave environments can be for life. In addition to the darkness, food is scarce. The fact that life has found a way to proliferate in such inhospitable places is remarkable.