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Tiny Caribbean clingfish carries venom

NSF Award:

COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH: AN INTEGRATIVE APPROACH TO THE PERFORMANCE AND EVOLUTION OF HIGH PERFORMANCE SUCTORIAL DISKS IN FISHES  (Texas AgriLife Research)

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Two species of Caribbean clingfish contain cells identical to those found in the venom glands of toxic fish such as scorpion fish, lionfish and catfish. The finding is significant because it suggests that the clingfish, previously thought to be nontoxic, is venomous.

The study, conducted by a collaborative team of NSF-funded university and museum-based scientists, shows that remarkable traits (such as venom glands) can still be discovered even in relatively well-known species. These findings provide strong justification for continued anatomical investigation of well-studied species.

Though researchers discover new species of venomous fish annually, the discovery of venom glands in groups of fish not previously known to contain venomous members is uncommon and has not occurred since the 1960s. The Caribbean clingfish found in this study are tiny (one species is less than 2.54 centimeters [1 inch]). This discovery not only introduces an entirely new group of venomous fish for future study but also the world's smallest venomous vertebrates.

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  • this caribbean clingfish was recently found to be venomous
Researchers have discovered that the papillate clingfish found in the Caribbean in the 1950s is venomous.
Kevin Conway, Texas A&M and Carole Baldwin, Smithsonian Institution

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