HORNED-UP catfish that literally “catfish” their mates by tricking them into sex have been discovered in the Amazon rainforest.
The sneaky fish pretend to be looking after eggs to woo the opposite sex – but it’s actually a saucy ploy to secure a river romp.
Scientists have found six species of the new catfish, which they described as “hideously adorable”.
The hideous part is thanks to the bizarre tentacles that cover the faces of these newly discovered fish.
“We discovered six new species of really cool catfish from the Amazon and Orinoco River basins,” said Lesley de Souza, a conservation scientist and ichthyologist at Chicago’s Field Museum, and lead author of a paper in Zootaxa describing the new species.
“They have tentacles on their snouts, they have spines that stick out from their heads, almost like claws, to protect themselves and their nests, and their body is covered with bony plates like armour.
“They’re warriors, they’re fish superheroes,” Lesley added.
The new catfish are all part of the genus Acistrus, which is know as the bristlenose catfish.
They’re river-dwellers that measure between three and six inches long – with males marked by tentacles that “erupt” from their snouts.
Although the tentacles look disgusting, they’re actually designed to convince females that their owners would make good dads.
Catfish fathers look after their young, standing guard over egg nests to deter predators.
But the tentacles allow the catfish to trick females into thinking they’re looking after eggs.
“The idea is that when a female fish sees a male with these tentacles, to her, they look like eggs,” said de Souza.
That signifies to her that he’s a good father who’s able to produce offspring and protect them.”
It mirrors the online trend of “catfishing”, which involves fraudsters seducing web users by lying to them about their identity.
These particular catfish are found in northeastern South America, in an area of Venezuela, Colombia and Guyana that’s called the Guiana Shield.
The fish dwell in clear, fast-moving rivers and streams, and are believed to be quite abundant – but they’re also at risk from mining activities.
“If you’re in the right habitat, you’re going to find a lot of them,” said de Souza.
“But they are sensitive to subtle changes in the environment.
“We have seen this at sites where they were plentiful and now scarce – this is due to habitat destruction.”
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Do you think this catfish is hideous or adorable? Let us know in the comments!
‘Hideous’ catfish species that tricks females into having sex with them found in Amazon river