Saturday June 03, 2017

A bend in its skull helps a blind fish find its way

How do blind cavefish navigate to find food? 1:02

Listen 7:05

"How the blind fish found its way" sounds like a children's story, with a hopeful message at the end. But the story of how blind cavefish can thrive is anything but a simple fairy tale. 

Dr. Joshua Gross and his lab think they've figured out part of the puzzle of how these fish who are completely blind, live in total darkness, and have very little food available, can eke out an existence.  

It has to do with the the bend in their skull. This type of asymmetry is rarely found in animals, but in the case of the Mexican blind cavefish, researchers think it helps them find their way. 

The paper is published in PLOS One: Cranial asymmetry arises later in the life history of the blind Mexican cavefish, Astyanax mexicanus.

Mexican blind cavefish

A Mexican blind cavefish in the lab. What used to be eye sockets are filled in with fatty tissue. (Amanda Powers)