A new species of suckermouth armored catfish (pictured) has been found in Ecuador, a new study says.
DePaul University scientist Windsor Aguirre found five specimens of the odd-looking fish in 2008 in the Santa Rosa River (map) and sent them to Alabama's Auburn University for identification.
"When we first realized it was new, it wasn't particularly surprising—this family [of catfish] increases in number every year," said study leader Milton Tan, a Ph.D. student in biology at Auburn.
Instead, what interested Tan and colleagues is that the 2.8-inch-long (7-centimeter-long) species—unlike its relatives—lacks armored plates on the sides of its head.
The lack of head plates suggests the species is a "missing link" between other Cordylancistrus species and the related genus Chaetostoma, which has an unplated snout, Tan said.
The arrangement makes the new species "a really unusual fish," said Tan, who named the animal Cordylancistrus santarosensis after its home river.
"That's important, because the fish species in Ecuador are not particularly diverse, [and we wanted to] let people know [there's a fish] in Ecuador that's particularly unique and only found there."
A study on the new suckermouth armored catfish was published March 22 in the journal Zootaxa.