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Mysterious snakehead fish from Kerala found

MANGALURU: A group of Indian and British scientists have found a mysterious new species of 'snakehead fish' lurking within the subterranean waters of Kerala. The extraordinary discovering was once reported in a scientific paper printed in world animal taxonomy journal Zootaxa on Thursday.

The abnormal fish has been named Aenigmachanna Gollum (Gollum Snakehead) after 'Gollum', a personality from the 'The Lord of the Rings', a creature that went underground and all the way through its subterranean lifestyles changed its morphological features. The new fish is not only a brand new species, but additionally a outstanding new genus of the snakehead circle of relatives channidae (which is recently represented by means of two different genera, Channa in Asia, and Parachanna in Africa).

Snakehead fishes of the circle of relatives Channidae are predatory freshwater fishes comprising 50 valid species, a lot of which can be important meals fishes. Some also are in style within the aquarium fish business, and others have been offered all over the world with a number of species changing into highly invasive (especially in North America). Although readily recognized as a member of the circle of relatives Channidae, the new species, presentations a number of morphological features which can be highly extraordinary and even distinctive in comparison to its closest kin. Aenigmachanna Gollum additionally represents the primary species of snakehead to be recorded from subterranean waters.

Normally, subterranean fishes display many distinctive characters which can be interestingly absent in Aenigmachanna. This suggests two probabilities - either it represents a lineage that handiest just lately began a subterranean way of life and still has maintained its surface-life features, or that it lives in a habitat through which common excursions to the surface-water still happen.

"As the Gollum Snakehead was discovered by pure chance in a rice-field not long after the catastrophic floods in Kerala in August 2018, and almost certainly not collected from its natural habitat, we are unable to choose between these two options", mentioned Rajeev Raghavan, assistant professor at the division of fisheries resource control, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS), who led the learn about and wrote the paper describing this mystery fish.

When local youngster and fish hobbyist, Ajeer, stumbled upon this interesting fish from his rice box close to Vengara in Malappuram district of Kerala, little did he notice that the fish will turn out to be one of the vital extraordinary species to be described from India lately. "The fish had a strikingly distinct morphology from any other species found in India, and the fact that it represented a new species was evident from the moment I saw the specimens" mentioned VK Anoop, a PhD student running at the KUFOS, and a co-author at the paper.

Snakehead fishes are mandatory air-breathers and feature a specialized, smartly vascularized suprabranchial organ and a highly changed vascular machine which together makes those fishes much less dependent on water. They are living in oxygen-poor waters and too can survive out of water for a number of hours.

"The Gollum snakehead is unable to remain in the water column and has either reduced or even lost its swim bladder, whereas all other snakehead fishes have a well-developed swim bladder, and as highly efficient predators easily maintain buoyancy in open water" mentioned Ralf Britz, scientist at the Natural History Museum, London, a global authority on snakehead fishes, and the lead author of the paper.

The subterranean aquifers and wells of Kerala are a global hotspot for distinctive species which can be frequently anatomically so derived that their systematic relationships amongst upper level taxa is hard to establish. This is the case with fishes of the endemic genera Horaglanis and Kryptoglanis.

"These organisms are no doubt very ancient lineages, separated from their putative closest relatives usually by tens of millions of years. Using advanced molecular tools, we are now almost close to solving their phylogenetic and biogeographic puzzles", mentioned Neelesh Dahanukar of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune, a collaborator at the learn about and a co-author of the paper.

Ongoing research at the KUFOS, in collaboration with the Natural History museum in London, and IISER Pune, is hopeful of fixing a few of these mysteries.

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