Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 17th, 2011
We report the discovery of an enigmatic, small eel-like ﬁsh from a 35 m-deep fringing-reef cave in the western Paciﬁc Ocean Republic of Palau that exhibits an unusual suite of morphological characters. Many of these uniquely characterize the Recent members of the 19 families comprising the elopomorph order Anguilliformes, the true eels. Others are found among anguilliforms only in the Cretaceous fossils, and still others are primitive with respect to both Recent and fossil eels. Thus, morphological evidence explicitly places it as the most basal lineage (i.e. the sister group of extant anguilliforms). Phylogenetic analysis and divergence time estimation based on whole mitogenome sequences from various actinopterygians, including representatives of all eel families, demonstrate that this ﬁsh represents one of the most basal, independent lineages of the true eels, with a long evolutionary history comparable to that of the entire Anguilliformes (approx. 200 Myr). Such a long, independent evolutionary history dating back to the early Mesozoic and a retention of primitive morphological features (e.g. the presence of a premaxilla, metapterygoid, free symplectic, gill rakers, pseudobranch and distinct caudal ﬁn rays) warrant recognition of this species as a ‘living fossil’ of the true eels, herein described as Protoanguilla palau genus et speciesnov. in the new family Protoanguillidae.
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.