Mysterious dark caves consistently yield a wide variety of blind, pinkish-white creatures with unusual characteristics. A curious example of such an animal is the cave angelfish Cryptotora thamicola, which uses its fins to walk with a gait very much like that of a salamander. Found only in a particular network of caves in northern Thailand, it has been shown to energetically climb rocks and underground waterfalls.

To be sure, Cryptotora is not the only fish that uses its fins for locomotion on land. Mudskippers, for instance, use their pectoral (front) fins and strong tail to drag their bodies through the mud. What makes Cryptotora‘s gait more intriguing is that it uses all four of its paired fins, both the pectoral and pelvic pairs, which correspond anatomically with the front and hind limbs of four-footed animals (including ourselves). Whereas most fishes do have a shoulder girdle that attaches the pectoral fins to the rest of the skeleton, the pelvic fins are usually only anchored in soft tissue and therefore cannot carry any weight. Cryptotora, however, has recently been shown to also have a robust pelvic girdle that attaches the pelvic fins to the spinal chord, thus giving it four functional fins for walking.

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Just look at that. I kind of want one now.


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