Sumatran Peat Bog Yields Tiniest Fish

The fish, a member of the carp family, has a translucent body and a head unprotected by a skeleton. i i

The fish, a member of the carp family, has a translucent body and a head unprotected by a skeleton. Tan Heok Hui hide caption

itoggle caption Tan Heok Hui
The fish, a member of the carp family, has a translucent body and a head unprotected by a skeleton.

The fish, a member of the carp family, has a translucent body and a head unprotected by a skeleton.

Tan Heok Hui
Mature females grow to less than a third of an inch long.  i i

Mature females grow to less than a third of an inch long. Maurice Kottelat hide caption

itoggle caption Maurice Kottelat
Mature females grow to less than a third of an inch long.

Mature females grow to less than a third of an inch long.

Maurice Kottelat

Stories told by fishing enthusiasts all tend to follow the same plotline: An endless sea and a mighty struggle with a fish so huge it's beyond belief. In the end, the biggest fish all seem to get away.

Then there's the fish tale just reported by Britain's Royal Society. It's about a creature from a black lagoon in Sumatra. Scientists say it's not only the world's smallest known fish, it's also the tiniest vertebrate ever found.

The fish was uncovered by Swiss ichthyologist Maurice Kottelat, who makes a habit of wandering through the Sumatra's dark, wet peat bogs. Kottelat is racing to discover new species of fish before the bogs are drained and burned by settlers.

In the past five years, he's discovered 450 new species of fish there. Most of them are small and under six inches. But one day in his net, Kottelat saw an unusually small fish; he thought it was just a baby. He sent it on to London's Natural History Museum, where researchers confirmed that the specimen the size of a nail clipping wasn't a baby at all, but the smallest adult vertebrate ever found.

The fish, Paedocypris progenetica, takes the title away from another fish: a half-inch-long goby found in the northern Pacific.

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