New freshwater fish discovered from western ghats in Maharashtra’s Sindhudurg districtUpdated: Oct 20, 2020, 18:49 IST
Researchers have discovered a new sub-species of the Schistura – a freshwater loach –from the Sahyadris (western ghats) in Maharashtra. The Schistura are tiny and colourful fish species which inhabit streams and water that is rich in oxygen. Species that spend most of their life in either freshwater inland areas or brackish estuaries are known as freshwater fish species.
The findings by Jayasimhan Praveenraj from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)-Central Island Agricultural Research Institute, Port Blair; Maharashtra chief minister’s son Tejas Thackeray from the Thackeray Wildlife Foundation, Mumbai; and fish enthusiast and underwater photographer Shankar Balasubramanian were published the peer reviewed journal Aqua International Journal of Ichthyology recently. Praveenraj said Thackeray had found this tiny loach in 2012. The same loach was collected for the second time by Thackeray and Balasubramanian in 2017.
The fish was named as ‘Schistura hiranyakeshi’ after the river Hiranyakeshi which originates in the Sindhudurg district. “As we collected the specimens from 2017, we found that the fish did not have any official scientific name, and hence we worked on it for providing an official description. We compared our newly-found loach with other species of Schistura from the Indian subcontinent and confirmed it to be new.
Hiranykeshi in Sanskrit means ‘golden hair’ which also symbolises the golden yellow fin colour on the fish. This is one of the prettiest loaches ever discovered from India,” said Praveenraj.
Endemic to its type locality, the Schistura hiranyakeshi has a very limited distribution and appears to be rare and restricted only to the upper streams and ponds of the ancient Shiva temple in Sindhudurg district at Amboli, a recognised hotspot for multiple discoveries.
According to studies, the species has a golden-beige body colour with a crimson sheen and golden yellow bars on their elongated body along with a unique colour pattern. They are around 37.8mm long.
“There are 64 species of Schistura in India, with most of them described from the Northeast region, while only 14 were described from peninsular India,” said Praveenraj.
Experts said that it was a significant discovery. “The northern parts of the western ghats, including parts of Goa and Maharashtra, are poorly explored as compared to their southern counterparts in Karnataka and Kerala, where major studies have been focussed. There have always been speculations that the northern western ghats’ freshwater system has rich biodiversity. Now, this is an evidence to show the presence of strikingly beautiful species that have previously escaped the eyes of researchers,” said Rajeev Raghavan, assistant professor at Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, and the South Asia coordinator of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Freshwater Fish Specialist Group.