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New Cavefish Found in Sinkhole, Named for Fever

A new species of cave fish dubbed Typhlerotris mararybe, found in a sinkhole in southwestern Madagascar. "Mararybe" means "big sickness."
A new species of cave fish dubbed Typhlerotris mararybe, found in a sinkhole in southwestern Madagascar. "Mararybe" means "big sickness." (Image credit: Sparks & Chakrabarty / American Museum Novitates)

Researchers have discovered a new species of cavefish within a sinkhole in southwestern Madagascar. Shortly after swimming in the sinkhole's waters to find the fish, the scientists were afflicted with a "strange and debilitating" sickness dubbed "sinkhole fever," for which the species is named, according to the Guardian. The new species is Typhlerotris mararybe — "Mararybe" means "big sickness" in a local dialect.

The fish is small, with a length of about 1.5 inches (38 millimeters). Like many cavefish it lacks eyes and has "well-developed sensory canals and pores on its head," the Guardian reports.

Locals often visit this sinkhole and regard it as sacred, coming to offer prayers. While locals were familiar with several related cavefish species, they hadn't encountered this new animal, even though the people often descend to the sinkhole's waters via tree roots, reports the Guardian.

The fish is described in a study published in the journal American Museum Novitates. 

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Douglas Main
Douglas Main loves the weird and wonderful world of science, digging into amazing Planet Earth discoveries and wacky animal findings (from marsupials mating themselves to death to zombie worms to tear-drinking butterflies) for Live Science. Follow Doug on Google+.