Leonardo DiCaprio says that an Indian man is smart for finding new fish in a bucket.

Abraham A, a former paramilitary soldier from the southern state of Kerala, found a new type of underground fish called the Pathala Eel Loach in 2020.

The fish’s name comes from the Sanskrit word Pathala, which means “below the feet” and refers to the fact that it lives underground.

The small species, which looks like a snake, lives in aquifers, which are big layers of rock and sediments that hold groundwater.

Mr. Abraham, who lives in the Alappuzha area, said that he saw “a red thread in the bucket” while he was taking a bath.

He picked it up to look at it more closely and saw that the thread was moving.

Mr. Abraham put it in a glass jar and called a local college professor, Dr. Binoy Thomas. Dr. Thomas put him in touch with researchers at the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (Kufos), who were able to identify the new species.

In Mr. Abraham’s well and water tank, they found four more of the same kind of fish over the next few weeks.

Last week, environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio shared a colorful photo of the Pathala Eel Loach on Instagram and gave credit to Mr. Abraham. This brought the interesting discovery back into the public eye.

The actor said, “The wild is all around us, and sometimes all it takes to find a new species is to go about a normal day.”

DiCaprio wrote that the find showed “how citizen science” was “the key for scientists to study these unknown underground ecosystems.”

Pathala Eel Loach is a type of fish that lives in groundwater. Most fish live in rivers, lakes, or other bodies of open water.

Dr. Rajeev Raghavan, an assistant professor at Kufos, told BBC Hindi, “We have about 17 or 18 of these species in India, and at least 11 of them are in Kerala.”

The only places you can find these fish are India, China (which has the most underground fish), Mexico, and a few other countries.

Since these fish live in groundwater, Mr. Raghavan said, the only way to catch them is if they come out of taps by chance.

The aquifers are linked to wells, and fish sometimes show up in the wells when the aquifers dry up in the summer. Kerala has the most domestic wells in India. In the state’s highlands and midlands, there are close to seven million wells.

In Mr. Abraham’s case, the fish could have gone from the groundwater to the well, then to the water tank on the roof, and finally into his bucket through the tap.

“It’s a kind of sampling that happens by chance,” Dr. Raghavan said.

The expert also says that before the 1950s, not much was known about fish that live in groundwater. Their presence in Kerala wasn’t known until 2015, when Kufos began studying them as part of a project paid for by the state government.

The university then started a Citizen Science Network to teach people that these fish could end up in faucets or at the bottom of dry wells.

“We asked them to call or write to us. Dr. Raghavan said, “This is how we got more than 150 specimens of all 11 species.”

Scientists say that the finding of the Pathala Eel Loach is also important in terms of evolution.

“Most groundwater fish are very old,” Dr. Raghavan said. He added that a study of one of the 11 species found in Kerala showed that its ancestors lived on Earth 125 million years ago, when dinosaurs were still alive.

“This means that all fish caught in underground systems have been around for millions of years,” he said.

From the start, Mr. Abraham knew that the finding was important.

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