He's not making this up.
It's known as Proteus anguinus
and even though it's called a human fish
it's actually an amphibian
of the Proteidae
family and is distantly related to the newt. The creature was known locally as the Mocheril
, which in Slovenia
n means "the one that burrows into wetness." It is the only known cave amphibian
and the largest among proper cave animals.
It's usually about 25 centimeter
s long when fully grown, with a flat tail and a swimming fin. It has two pairs of legs. Living deep underground
, it's completely adapted to the dark with no pigment
in its skin and eyes that have atrophy once the animal passes the foetal stage. Its whole body, though, is extremely sensitive to light, smell and electrical currents. It's not an effective predator
: it has a blunt muzzle and small teeth, but it eats small animals, shrimp, and insect larvae. it can survive without food for a surprisingly long time (one test showed that in one instance in captivity it fasted for twelve years).
Very little is known about their reproduction. And, given the difficulty of getting to their favoured locations, little is known about the extent of the population. The habitat is very limited - deep underwater caves and rivers in Slovenia
, a few square miles in Italy
, and the territory reaching down to Bosnia
They reach maturity
at 12 to 14 years, and can live to be a hundred.
First written about in 1689, and thought to be the offspring of a dragon
, this creature was captured by a local postman and put on display. Where the world promptly forgot about it until 1750 when a fisherman snagged five legged fish in his net. A single specimen was sent abroad, and forgotten about within fifty years despite the intial fights about what exactly it was and the naming of the creature. (It was named by a Viennese zoologist
, J N Laurenti, after the Greek god Proteus
, shepherd of the creatures of the sea.)
It bamboozles scientists with several of its habits: most particularly the fact that it reaches sexual maturity when still in its larval stage. It doesn't finish its metamorphosis
, from the tadpole
-like stage breathing with gills
to leaving the water. Even though it has rudimentary lungs
, it remains in the water, using its gills.
I'm more worried that something ten inches long with gills, four legs and no eyes is said to look like a human...
most of this information digested from Diver magazine