A previously undiscovered African catfish has a rare but important ability: When it can't find food in the water, it slithers onto land to eat crickets. By some accounts, the out-of-water hunting method used by the fish helps explain why fish first crawled out of the sea millions of years ago.
Fish that use their fins to "walk" across dry land have been making new recently -- witness the headlines the so-called snakehead fish has gotten since it turned up in Maryland, Virginia and other areas.
It used ot be a scientific article of faith that fish never hunted for prey on land. But recently, a catfish expert named Sam Van Wassenberg left some food on a flat dry surface near a fish tank full of long brown African catfish -- which then leapt out of the water to get food.
Some fish experts say these may just be the kind of skills that helped draw fish like-creatures known as tretrapods out of the water more than 400 million years ago.
John Lundborg, curator of icthyology at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Phildelphia, says the African catfish, described in the current issue of Nature, have been around for a mere 55 million years. That means the fish isn't literally a missing link to the first creatures to emerge from the sea. But experts say the fish is a living example of the way it might have happened.