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A 100-Million-Year-Old Fish Discovered In Kerala; Pics

They found Gollum! No no, not the one from The Lord of The Rings but Aenigmachannidae Gollum, also known as the Gollum snakehead - an aquifer-dwelling dragon snakehead fish endemic (only found in one specific location) to Kerala.

It's a dragon, it swims like an eel, and it's been hiding for 100 million years - yes, 100 MILLION YEARS!

The researchers in Kerala were curious about a social media post when they found a fish in the watery underground rocks. They named it Gollum, after the character in the Lord of the Rings.

As far as researchers are aware, A. gollum is only known from its type locality, a paddy field in Oorakam, Kerala.

Gollum is a member of an ancient fish family called dragon snakeheads, which has preserved its primitive characteristics after millennia. According to researchers, it also survived the separation of India from Africa around 120 million years ago [1].

A. gollum was discovered as a result of the 2018 Kerala floods, when several of the fishes were washed out of their aquifer habitat and into a paddy field in Oorakam, where a local resident discovered them and photographed them, posting the images on social media sites.

Rajeev Raghavan, a scientist at the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, noticed the pictures and initiated a study into the species [2].

A post on social media involving a curious fish that had been found in a backyard well caught Rajeev Raghavan's attention at the beginning of 2018. As he was unable to recognize the creature, he sent it to fellow researcher Ralf Britz who also did not understand it.

In order to conduct a scientific study that would bring Britz to India, Raghavan and his colleagues began collecting specimens of the fish.

As Britz observed the elusive fish rise to the surface late one night in a flooded paddy field in Kochi, a new species and genus were first identified as the Gollum in a study published in Zootaxa in May 2019.

Sometimes, social media is not all that bad. I mean, if it were not for the post, Gollum would have continued to stay under the radar for the coming millions of years - who knows!

According to scientists, the Gollum snakehead is a 'living fossil.' Their research also demonstrates that the new snakehead family has a very long evolutionary history.

It is believed that it evolved at least 109 million years ago when dinosaurs still roamed the planet after the Indian plate split from Gondwana and began drifting away from it.

Story first published: Thursday, December 1, 2022, 14:30 [IST]
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