Tags: new | fish | species | idaho | montana

New Fish Species Hiding Out in Idaho, Montana Mountain Waters

Friday, 31 Jan 2014 07:41 AM

By Michael Mullins

A new fish species that dwells at the bottom of cold, swift-flowing streams has been discovered in Idaho and Montana's mountain rivers.

According to biologists, the new species is a type of freshwater sculpin, a class of fish found throughout North America and known for their oversized head and shoulder structure, along with their small frame that rarely exceeds six inches in length, Reuters reported.

"The discovery of a new fish is something I never thought would happen in my career, because it's very rare in the United States," Michael Young, a biologist who co-authored the scientific description of the find published in the journal Zootaxa, told Reuters.

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According to Young, the cedar sculpin, as its been named, was first discovered by scientists with the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station in Montana who were conducting a genetic inventory in the upper Columbia River basin.

The subsequent genetic tests proved that the new fish varied from similar species found in other bottom-feeding species known to populate area rivers.

The most distinct feature that biologists observed differentiating the cedar sculpin form similar species of fish is a variation in the spiny structures that sprout from their heads, which are used for defensive purposes in protecting them from predators, such as trout, salmon and other large fish that reside in the same waters.

Despite the physical variation of the cedar sculpin, Young tells Washington State's Spokesman-Review that "the average person wouldn’t be able to tell the difference."

"One of the physical differences is visible only if you dissect the fish. The other involves the placement of pores right before the tail," Young added.

According to Young, due to the fact that sculpin are preyed upon by several species of larger fish, their presence in rivers is often an indicator that the prized catches sought by anglers aren't too far away.

"If you’re in a trout river with a lot of big fish, they’re probably feeding on sculpin," Young said.

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