The Human FishAnand Parameswaran
We humans have always had a fascination for the strange, the exotic… especially if they resemble us humans… And nature kind of humor’s us by providing such sights and creatures – the volcanoes, the hot springs, the waterfalls, the Komodo dragons, the Orangutan, etc… These then become fodder for our legends, stories, and beliefs – at times fantastical, at times philosophical, at times religious… but always entertaining and fascinating.
The Human fish is one such. This is the Olm fish (Proteus Anguinus), a species of blind amphibians that are found in the underground caves of the Dinaric karst in S.E. Europe. They spend their entire lives in darkness and as a result, their skin has no pigment making it resemble white human flesh. This is why the locals call it “oveja Ribica,” which means “Human Fish”.
Darwin has written about this creature in his “On the Origin of Species” to illustrate the reduction of structure through disuse. The Olm’s eyes are normal when they are born, but very quickly the organs start to regress and before they become adults, they become almost completely blind…
The stories and legends around them are many – they are normally not too frequently seen since they live so deep underground. Sometimes, floodwaters carry Olms to the surface – that’s when humans spot them and promptly makeup legends and stories to make sense of the strangeness. Medieval legends considered them to be baby dragons since their snake-like bodies were dragon-like and the pale skin seemed human-like.
These creatures are best seen in the Postojna cave complex in Slovenia – to head there, Go Beyonder here.