The U.S. government announced Wednesday that a new species from Brazil, a small freshwater fish that lives in the Amazon River, could save tens of millions of sharks, rays and other animals from extinction.
The fish is the world’s smallest freshwater fish, measuring less than one millimeter (0.16 inch) long, and it can live for just a few months before being washed into the ocean, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.
The species, which was named for the small, striped fish, was discovered in the southern Amazon region of Brazil by researchers from the University of Sao Paulo, the country’s main scientific institution.
The researchers collected the fish and shipped it to the NOAA for conservation.
The new species, named Bimini dolorosa, is the only one of its kind found in the country, NOAA said.
It lives in a small river, and is one of the only freshwater fish in the world to live on land.
The tiny fish has also been known to eat sharks and other sea creatures, NOAA says.
Biminis dolorosus is the smallest freshwater sea slug and has only been seen in the Brazilian Amazon, which is one-quarter of the size of New York City.
It feeds on small aquatic animals such as squid and fish, which are eaten by the fish’s predators, scientists say.
“The fish has the potential to save many species of fish and other marine animals, including endangered species, and reduce the pressure on the Amazon,” said David S. Leach, a researcher at NOAA’s Marine Conservation Science Center in Newport, Rhode Island, who was not involved in the new study.
“By reducing the number of fish that can be caught, it is a win-win for everyone.”
The new fish is part of the first study of its species, a rare freshwater species found in Brazilian waters, the agency said.
Scientists believe that the new species could help to protect the freshwater fish from overfishing and climate change.
“Its habitat is relatively small, but it is home to some of the largest freshwater fish on Earth, which includes sharks, sea lions and other large predators,” said Mark M. Reiman, a marine biologist at the University at Buffalo, New York, who wasn’t involved in this study.
He said the fish could be of great conservation value, but the exact species needs to be verified.
“It is not yet known whether the species can live as a resident, or whether the fish can breed and raise offspring.
We are hoping to find out soon, but right now it is important that we study it,” Reiman said.
This article originally appeared on The Washington Post.