New genus of freshwater fish found in Maharashtra named after Manipur professor
A team of scientists from Maharashtra and Kerala has discovered a new species of freshwater fish found in the Western Ghats and named it after a well-known professor of the Manipur University.
The new fish genus is called ‘Waikhomia hira’. ‘Waikhomia’ is derived from the surname of Professor Waikhom Vishwanath, a well-known taxonomist with the department of life sciences of the Manipur University, while hira means diamond.
“The name ‘Waikhomia’ for the new genus is a tribute to Professor Vishwanath Waikhom for his exemplary contributions to improving our knowledge on freshwater fish of north-east India, and for promoting fish taxonomy as a science in the country,” said Dr. Rajeev Raghavan, an assistant professor of Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS).
“Professor Vishwanath has discovered and described the maximum number of freshwater fishes than any other living fish taxonomist in India,” he added. So far, Professor Vishwanath’s team has discovered around 100 freshwater fish species since the discovery of Puntius jayaremi locally known as Heikak Nga in 1986, and added over 200 fish species in Manipur alone.
Dr. Raghavan, along with Unmesh Katwate of Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai; Pradeep Kumar of Modern College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Pune; and Neelesh Dahanukar of Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune; described the new fish genus and results of their work was published in the leading international journal, Zootaxa, on Monday.
‘Maharaja Barbs’, a member of the freshwater family and endemic to the high-altitude streams of the northern Western Ghats are currently represented by a single species, Puntius sahyadriensis. It was described from the streams of the Yenna river basin close to Mahabaleshwar in the Western Ghats mountain range in 1953.
“But our studies have shown that this species does not belong to the genus Puntius. Hence, we assigned a new genus name, ‘Waikhomia’. While undertaking this study we found that there is an additional species to (Puntius) sahyadriensis and we described it as ‘Waikhomia hira’,” Dr. Raghavan added.
The journal reported that the population of ‘Waikhomia’ was recorded from several tributaries of the east-flowing Krishna river system, including in the upstream regions of the Venna river -- the type locality of Waikhomia sahyadriensis -- and the Koyna river in Maharashtra; Tunga river near Kudremukh in Karnataka, and from the other independent west-flowing rivers such as Sharavati, Aghanashini and the Kali – the type locality of ‘Waikhomia hira’.