Two-jawed creature in fishing net turns out to be a new species in India, study says

A new serpentine sea creature — distinguished by its chocolate brown coloration and stubby snout — was recently discovered off the coast of India.

The creature was found among the bycatch, or incidentally captured fish, of anglers in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, according to a study published on March 23 in the journal Zoosystematics and Evolution.

Four specimens were captured in nets about 80 to 100 feet underwater.

Measuring between 10 and 20 inches, the fish is a type of moray eel, a group of cryptic ocean dwellers often found in crevices and holes, researchers said.

It was named Gymnothorax tamilnaduensis after the Indian state it was discovered in.

“I am extremely elated to share that the paper on new species named after Tamil Nadu has been published,” Paramasivam Kodeeswaran, one of the study’s authors, wrote on Twitter. “It was my 9th new species.”

Unlike other types of morays that have smooth teeth, the newfound species has sawlike or jagged teeth. It also has more vertebrae than other morays, and has a series of lines and spots on its head, researchers said.

The eel, like all morays, also has two sets of jaws.

Their unique bone structure comes in handy while hunting for food, according to the National Science Foundation. The first set of jaws seizes and holds prey, while the second moves the prey back into the esophagus.

Gymnothorax tamilnaduensis is now the fourth known species of short brown unpatterned moray eels, researchers said.

While they are of interest to scientists, these kinds of morays are sometimes discarded by anglers since they are not economically valuable, according to the study.

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