Dracula fish found in Burma

Press release - 11 March 2009

A tiny 17 millimetre-long transparent fish with a larval skeleton and Dracula-like ‘teeth’ has been described by Natural History Museum zoologists. The new minnow was found in a stream in northern Burma. Danionella dracula is part of the Cypriniform group of carp-like fishes and is a close relative of the zebrafish. It has evolved many unique and unusual characteristics, the most spectacular of which are jaw modifications that resemble true teeth and protrude through the skin.

Dr Ralf Britz, zoologist at the Natural History Museum, explains, ‘This fish is one of the most extraordinary vertebrates discovered in the last few decades. The teeth that D dracula has are very surprising because none of the other 3,700 species in the Cypriniform group have any teeth in their jaws. In fact, they lost their jaw teeth about 50 million years ago in the Upper Eocene Period. Danionella dracula, however, evolved its own tooth-like structures by growing them from the jaw bones rather than re-evolving jaw teeth.’

The findings are published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


Notes for editors


  • Spectacular Morphological Novelty in a Miniature Cyprinid Fish, Danionella dracula is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
  • Dr Britz worked with Museum colleague Lukas Rüber, and Kevin Conway from Saint Louis University, USA, to study D dracula and make this remarkable fish known to science
  • The world’s smallest fish, Paedocypris progenetica, which is only 7.9 millimetres long, also belongs to the Cypriniform group.
  • Winner of Visit London’s 2008 Kids Love London Best Family Fun Award, the Natural History Museum is also a world-leading science research centre. Through its collections and scientific expertise, the Museum is helping to conserve the extraordinary richness and diversity of the natural world with groundbreaking projects in 68 countries.


For further information, images or to arrange an interview please contact:

Claire Gilby, Senior Press Officer, Natural History Museum

Tel: 020 7942 5106
Mobile: 07799 690 151
Email: c.gilby@nhm.ac.uk

(not for publication)