Posts Tagged ‘ralf britz’

13 years after its description we spotted the dwarf puffer in wild for the first time.

YES!!! it was initially described using aquarium specimens.

imitator

Image of a female Carinotatraodon imitator. Photograph by Dr. Ralf Britz

 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:

  1. The conservation implications, were already evident when the species, very rare and often hard to spot among its look-alikes, was described.
  2. The location from where we located the fish is severely devastated due to sand-mining.
  3. 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.

 References:

 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.

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As the title suggest, a new species of teleost has been found out, it was collected, “sort of” unearthed, from the sand bed of a small river in south western India, thus named “ammophila” which means “sand loving”.

The new eel-loach Pangio ammophila

This species is for now known only from this location, and grows not more than 3 centimeters. It is the tiniest fish that I have ever seen* and were it not for the authors of the study, Ralf Britz, Anvar Ali and Rajeev Raghavan, probably it would have stayed in the wilderness and would not have received this attention. Readers should recall that the lead author of this study is the same one who described the “smallest vertebrate” Paedocypris progenetica, thus this fish is rather “big” for him.

This find calls our attention to some important points:

  1. It is the fourth valid Pangio species from the Indian region, the congeners of which are all distributed in the South – South Eastern Asian region.
  2. This species has a remarkably different colour pattern from the hitherto identified species of the genus, and most similar to its geographically nearest species Pangio goaensis.

These two points leads our attention to the historical bio-geography of the region. How was the present distribution of animals, in particular fishes of South – South Eastern Asia formed. The disjunct distribution of these species with its congeners in the North Eastern India and South East Asia (a huge geographical barrier), is surprising. These authors have found out Dario urops which was described recently, which also has a similar disjunct distribution. So these findings should help advance our understanding of the historical bio-geography of the region as well as the pangean and gondwanan connections of the Asian fauna.

3. Another issue that this species brings to fore is conservation of fragile habitats. This location is the only place where the species is found and is thus important (also it should harbour other species).

The unprecedented economic growth in India and especially in the region means that indiscriminate sand mining occurs in this same stream. Imagine how many of these sand loving eel-loaches would have been mined out before being noticed by the authors? How do we balance the biodiversity conservation and economic growth?

*Competing interest: I was part of the collection team which found this species and is a collaborator at the Conservation Research Group.

Ralf Britz, Anvar Ali and Rajeev Raghavan (2012). Pangio ammophila, a new species of eel-loach from Karnataka, southern India (Teleostei: Cypriniformes: Cobitidae). Ichthyol. Explor. Freshwaters,, 23 (1), 45-50

ResearchBlogging.org

Scientists have described a new species of fish from the Barapole tributary of the Valapattanam river of the Western Ghats. The scientists, Ralf Britz from the Natural history museum London, and Anvar Ali from the Conservation Research Group (CRG), St. Alberts College Ernakulam, and Siby Philip from the University of Porto, Portugal and CRG, found the species in a clear water stream, in Southern Karnataka, connecting to the Barapole tributary of the Valapattanam river. The study has been reported in today’s issue of Zootaxa, an international journal of zoological systematics.

Live Image of the new fish taken by Ralf Britz

The new species is named as Dario urops. The specific name (urops) is derived from Greek words ‘ουρά’ meaning ‘tail’ and ‘ὄψ’ meaning ‘eye’, denoting the conspicuous “eye-spot” on the caudal peduncle. This makes it the first discovery of badid fishes from the Western Ghats. Earlier 19 species of Badids were known from North-Eastern India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and South East Asia, and this find from the South of India, extends the distribution of this group of fishes as a whole south to the Western Ghats.

The new species measures a maximum up to 3 centimetres.  This attractive fish is has a background colour of yellowish beige, and the fins have a bluish-gray hue. The type material of the new species is housed at the museum of the Conservation Research Group, St. Albert’s College Cochin. Nikhil Sood, a Bangalore based aquarist and his Swiss friend, Benjamin Harink were the first people to discover the spot from where Dario urops was collected, and subsequently introduced the Indo-British Research Team to this location. Incidentally, Dario urops was first collected by Sir Francis Day more than 130 years ago from Wayanad and kept at the British museum, without formal description.

This find highlights the fact that the ichthyo-diversity of the Western Ghats is still not fully known and in general the importance of Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot. Researchers from the same group had identified another fish Pristolepis rubripinnis, which was published in yesterdays Zootaxa. Concerted and systematic exploratory survey for fishes in the Western Ghats are needed  to identify and preserve the valuable ichthyo-diversity.

References:

Ralf Britz, Anvar Ali & Siby Philip, 2012. Dario urops, a new species of badid fish from the western Ghats, southern India (Teleostei: Percomorpha: Badidae). Zootaxa, 3348: 63 – 68.