Forgotten Species of Fish Rediscovered in West Texas

First Posted: Apr 07, 2016 10:16 AM EDT

A species of fish, which was found to have eluded scientists for more than 100 years due to a case of mistaken identity, was recently rediscovered. According to study reports, the fish was hiding in the shallow waters of West Texas.

Scientists initially mistook the fish inhabiting the waters of West Texas for the Texas shiner; however reanalysis revealed it to be West Texas shiner instead. "So I guess you could say we have discovered an 'old-but-new' minnow way out in West Texas where nobody expected to find anything new, especially a fish," said Kevin Conway, wildlife and fisheries scientist. "Though we can't give this species a new scientific name, we are proposing the common name of West Texas shiner". 

Studies say there is a marked distinction between the two species. Researchers further added that just because two fishes look similar to each other doesn't indicate that they are closely related or will interbreed. In fact, the genetic diversity in the West Texas shiner is lower because its population is highly fragmented, and it can be found only in the Rio Grande drainage system. 

The species was first discovered in 1856 by Charles Frederic Girard, however, the finding was dismissed in the following few years. It is believed that the dismissal could have happened because Girard's contemporaries, who thought him to be careless, probably concluded that he described the same species more than once. 

Furthermore, another reason why the Texas shiner and the West Texas shiner were mistaken to be the same was due to their similar appearance. However, detailed study by scientists using morphology and genetics led to the discovery that these two are actually different types of fish altogether.

According to Conway, the case of discovering a fish twice is a reminder that many other such biological discoveries are possible in Texas

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