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World's smallest fish found in acidic Indonesian swamp

Associated Press
Published January 26, 2006

BANGKOK, Thailand - Scientists say they have discovered the world's smallest known fish in threatened swampland in Indonesia.

The fish, a member of the carp family, has a translucent body and a head unprotected by a skeleton.

Mature females grow to less than a third of an inch long. The males have enlarged pelvic fins and muscles that may be used in reproduction, researchers wrote in a report published Wednesday by the Royal Society in London.

"This is one of the strangest fish that I've seen in my whole career,' said Ralf Britz, a zoologist at the Natural History Museum in London.

"It's tiny, it lives in acid and it has these bizarre grasping fins. I hope we'll have time to find out more about them before their habitat disappears completely," he said.

The fish are found in an acidic peat swamp on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Indonesian peat swamps are under threat from fires lit by plantation owners and farmers as well as development and farming.

Researchers say several populations of the tiny fish, Paedocypris progenetica, have already been lost, according to the Natural History Museum.

The previous record for world's smallest fish, according to the Natural History Museum, was held by a species of Indo-Pacific goby one-10th of a millimeter longer.

"You don't wake up in the morning and think, "Today we will find the smallest fish in the world,"' said Swiss fish expert Maurice Kottelat, who helped discover the fish.

According to researchers, the little fish live in dark, tea-colored water at least 100 times more acidic than rainwater.

Such acidic swamps were once thought to harbor few animals, but recent research has revealed that they are highly diverse and home to many unique species.

[Last modified January 26, 2006, 01:02:16]

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