Charles Darwin had predicted they would be found. A dinosaur era eel which retains many of the traits of its original species has been found in an undersea cave in the Pacific Island of Palau 500 (800 kms) miles east of the Philippines.
Discovery News calls it Protoanguilla ("first eel") palau and says it is represents a species that appeared 200 million years ago. Its reddish brown body is striking, its iridescent fins tipped in bright white.
Its location has apparently kept it safe and avoided normal evolution but now it could be put at risk because of its discovery. The world is so desperate for energy it could turn to eels. Last Christmas a Japanese aquarium used eels to generate power to light a Christmas tree.
Discovery said its discovery was reported in Proceedings of the Royal Society .
"The eel looks so bizarre -- large head with relatively short body and various unique, internal characters -- that no ichthyologist, including us, correctly identified it as a member of true eel at first sight," co-author Masaki Miya told Discovery News. Miya is curator of fishes and an adjunct associate professor at Chiba University's Natural History Museum and Institute.
Diver Jiro Sakaue found it 115 feet underwater in a cave at the western fringing reef of Ngemelis Island. He is Miya's colleague.
Although there are more than 800 species of eel the oldest previously found originated 100 million years ago.
"Professional as well as amateur divers are always curious about animals and those working for the aquarium trade are notorious for trying to keep every animal in their tanks," Miya said. "We should promote a campaign for preserving animals to the Palau government shortly after the (study's) publication."