The unique monster “Alien” catfish has baffled scientists, who are attempting to classify the rare species. Researchers have determined that Kryptoglanis shajii are exclusive to Kerala, India. As they spend most of their time in underground pools, they are rarely seen.
Scientists with Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University are studying the fish’s skeleton, in an attempt to determine the species’ classification, habits, and life cycle.
MSN reports that the unusual fish was categorized as a new species in 2011. However, its closest living relative is unknown.
Although the fishes are tiny, they have been dubbed Monster Alien catfish, as they resemble the creature in the 1979 science-fiction horror film. With a bulging lower jaw and rows of razor-sharp teeth, the catfish certainly appear intimidating.
Indeed, scientists have determined that the subterranean fish are likely carnivores, which prey on insect larvae and small invertebrates.
The monster “Alien” catfish closely resembles other species’ of catfish from the outside. However, the bone structure has scientists baffled. Fish zoologist and professor John Lundberg explains:
“The more we looked at the skeleton, the stranger it got… The characteristics of this animal are just so different that we have a hard time fitting it into the family tree of catfishes.”
The unique bone structure suggests it evolved to serve a specific purpose. However, the researchers are having a difficult time explaining the compressed snout, extended jaw, and conical teeth.
Lundberg, who led the study, said he is unsure “what in their natural evolution would have led to this modified shape.” In fact, the researchers said “some of the Kryptoglanis’ bones were utterly unique among fishes of any species.”
Although it is being referred to as a monster “Alien” catfish, the creature has not been formally classified.
Similar research into the Kryptoglanis’ skeletal structure was conducted by researchers with the Natural History Museum of London. As opposed to the three-dimensional CAT scan images used by Lundberg, the London researchers created a skeletal cast using colored glass.
As reported by Fox News, neither study fully explained Kryptoglanis’ unique bone structure. Although both studies suggest the monster fish is a type catfish, they were unable to definitively prove which species is its closest relative.
Although monster “Alien” catfish look frightening, they are actually less than four inches long and pose no threat to humans.