Some fish may not seem very furry at first glance, but they certainly have hair! Hairy fish, also known as barbeled or barbels, are found in freshwater and saltwater environments and are characterized by their whisker-like hair structures called barbels. As it turns out, the amazing diversity of life here on Earth comes in all shapes and sizes! Check out these fun facts about hairy fish below to learn more about the incredible creatures we share our oceans with.

How do hairy fish get their name?

The reason hairy fish have such a peculiar name is due to their pectoral fins. The pectoral fins are made up of dermal denticles, which means they’re covered in tiny teeth. These structures help protect hairfish by preventing predators from getting a good grip on them during a struggle for life. In addition to these protections, these fish are also covered in slime—another good way to prevent being captured.

The most fascinating thing about hairy fish

Hairy Fish

Their scientific name is Trichomycterus. No, we didn’t make that up! Hairy fish get their name from a specialized fin that comes out of their back end (yes, we mean butt), and it kind of looks like a tiny mop or tuft of hair. Technically called an urotracheal extension, it allows them to breathe in air when they are out of water. They use it primarily as an escape mechanism—sounds fun!

Where are they from?

This type of fish is most commonly found in South America, but can also be found in places like Africa and Asia. They tend to avoid water bodies that have lots of sediment in them.

How long can hairy fish live?

On average, hairy fish live between 10-15 years. If they’re lucky, they might make it to 16 or 17. That’s pretty good for a fish.

What do scientists have to say about them?

In recent years, a group of researchers in Australia have been investigating what happens when fish become hairier than normal. In some cases, these traits can be detrimental, said Dr. Mark Norman from James Cook University in Queensland and head of that research team.

Do any fish have hair?

Technically, only mammals have hair. But there are a few types of fish that come pretty close to fitting in with our hairy friends on land. There are two species of fish that can have so-called hair or fur: Dogfish and Hagfish. Although they’re not actually mammals, they share many of their characteristics with our furry pals on land.

What eats the hairy fish?

The hairy frogfish’s diet consists of algae, crustaceans, and small invertebrates.

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