13 years after its description we spotted the dwarf puffer in wild for the first time.
YES!!! it was initially described using aquarium specimens.
Some years back, while reading through the fish taxonomy literature, still as an early stage researcher, a brilliant (colourful and surprising) paper came into my attention (see citations for the link). It was about a new species of “dwarf” freshwater-puffer fish Carinotetraodon imitator. The species was being described, however from just “aquarium” specimen!! That was an important revelation to me. The paper also contained very minute details, great electron microscopy images, and osteological evidence to prove the case and distinguish it from its ‘look-alike’ the Carinotetraodon travancoricus.
The first thought that crossed my mind was that – if I find the distribution location of this fish, it could make an interesting paper and a good addition to the literature. Years later…..
Now during our collection trip in January, we spotted this fish in the wild. That too along with the scientist who originally described the fish in 1999. This record is now official and available for researchers, along with brilliant photographs taken by Ralf.
This paper is important in many fronts:
- The conservation implications, were already evident when the species, very rare and often hard to spot among its look-alikes, was described.
- The location from where we located the fish is severely devastated due to sand-mining.
- The crucial role of aquarium fish traders: The fish description paper had acknowledged aquarium Glazer, for providing the fishes. This present paper thanks, Nikhil Sood from India Gills Bangalore for helping us to reach the spot and kindly taking us around. Aquarium traders really love the fishes and are keen to help researchers!!! So my colleagues if you find some aquarium people around you please look at them with respect from now on, at least some of them are not ‘against’ conservation in-situ (I have personally heard this many times) but FOR conservation!!
As a side note: This fish has been exported at least since 1999, thus many aquarium traders knew about it, and its origin from somewhere in Karnataka state in India, but none of them wanted to reveal the site for real in public, thus there are many ‘black sheeps’ around Glazers and IndiaGills!
Some researchers as well found this species in wild, albeit without any voucher specimen or photographs. Thus this publication in Ichthyological explorations of freshwaters, is the first one recording it in wild, and giving the information of the habitat in public. In a few years even if we lose the “hear-say” of traders’ knowledge, we have something in writing about the species.
Readers of this Blog are invited to read the full paper and the original description paper (I can send an “authors'” copy of the former to interested parties). Fish taxonomy guys will benefit a lot by seeing how to go about doing a “description”.
Competing Interest: as evident I am an author of the paper which this post speaks about.
Britz, R., Ali, A., Siby, P., Kumar, K. & R. Raghavan (2012). First record from the wild of Carinotetraodon imitator in Peninsular India (Teleostei: Tetraodontiformes: Tetraodontidae). Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters, 23: 105-109.
Britz, R. & Kottelat, M. (1999). Carinotetraodon imitator, a new freshwater pufferfish from India (Teleostei: Tetraodontiformes). Journal of South Asian Natural History, 4: 39-47.