PARIS (AFP) - A new species of eel found in the gloom of an undersea cave is a living fossil astonishingly similar to the first eels that swam some 200 million years ago, biologists reported on Wednesday.
The strange find was made last year in a 35-metre- (113-feet) deep fringing-reef cave off an island in the Western Pacific state of Palau, they said in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The small brown fish has very few of the anatomical characteristics of modern eels, a vast range whose 819 species are grouped into 19 families. In contrast, it has many hallmarks of primitive eels which lived in the early Mesozoic era, back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. The similarities include a disproportionately large head, a short compressed body, collar-like openings on the gills, rays on the caudal fin and a jawbone tip called a premaxilla.