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'Hillbilly' handfishers have spiky new enemy

NEED TO KNOW
  • Armored catfish discovered in South American river
  • Unlikely it'd be afraid of 'handfishers' in coveralls
  • Also found: A bird-eating frog and beetle the size of a tangerine
'Hillbilly' handfishers have spiky new enemy

It takes a special kind of fearlessness and general aversion to ick to plunge your bare hands into chest-high, muddy waters with the intention of grabbing hold of 60 pounds of angry catfish.

Much respect, 'Hillbilly' handfishers.

But know this: The game has now changed.

Enter the armored catfish. Wanna scoop-up this bad boy, hot shot? Better pack some chain mail gloves.

The newly-discovered catfish species was found during a three-week biodiversity expedition through some of the most inaccessible portions of the Suriname jungle. You know, as opposed to all the easily accessible portions of the Suriname jungle.

The spike-covered catfish is biologically engineered to be able to protect itself from predators -- most notably, the piranhas which swarm the rivers where they live. So if an armored catfish isn't afraid of an army of piranhas, what do you think the odds are it'd shudder in fear if approached by a bunch of dudes in coveralls?

Not good. Of course the species hasn't been found anywhere outside of the remote South American jungle in which it was discovered, so we may never get to find out.

Read more: Monkey not extinct, just hiding very well

Findings from the 2010 research trip led by Conservation International are just now being made public and the armored catfish was only one of 46 potentially new species uncovered during the expedition.

Some of the other fantastic finds include the "Pac-Man frog" which can swallow birds and mice the size of its own body; and the (relatively) mammoth "Great Horned Beetle" which can grow to be the size of a tangerine (!) and has the ability to use its oversized horn to "bury an animal carcass as large as a pig in only a few days." To repeat: it's a beetle ... able to bury a pig.

Perhaps some jungles are better off being "inaccessible."

Dr. Trond Larsen from Conservation International summed-up the trip as a rare, successful and important opportunity. "Our team was privileged to explore one of the last remaining areas of vast, unroaded wilderness in the world," he said. "We believe that protecting these landscapes while they remain pristine provides perhaps the greatest opportunity for maintaining globally important biodiversity and the ecosystems people depend upon for generations to come."

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