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Danionella cerebrum fish
Photograph: Ralf Britz

A mysterious fish with a transparent head has been discovered in Myanmar

The Danionella cerebrum is a seriously strange-looking fishy

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ed Cunningham

The world’s full of some pretty weird stuff, but a fish with a transparent skull, enabling you can see right into the workings of its strange little brain? Now that’s fucked up.

The fish is called Danionella cerebrum and was discovered last year in streams in southern Myanmar, just north of the country’s largest city, Yangon. While it was previously thought to be another, already-known species (Danionella translucida), it’s actually its own type of fish. It stands out because the roof of its skull is missing, replaced by a thin layer of skin. That means you can look directly into its brain, which is pretty handy for neuroscientists wanting to study the fish without harming it. 

The cerebrum was just one of many new freshwater fish species discovered last year, according to conservationists Shoal. The organisation’s full list of new fish species named in 2021 came to 200 overall, most of which were found in South America. They ranged from the wolverine pleco (a kind of spiky, flat fish found in Brazil) to the Mumbai blind eel, altogether showing just how much scientists are still discovering about life on Earth.

You can read Shoal’s list of new species discovered in 2021 – and read more about Danionella cerebrumhere.

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