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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  New species of fish found in the Western Ghats

New species of fish found in the Western Ghats

Pethia striata was discovered by ecologists in the Kudremukh National Park in Karnataka

The male of the species measures 3-4cm in length and is red in colour. Photo: V.M. AtkorePremium
The male of the species measures 3-4cm in length and is red in colour. Photo: V.M. Atkore

Ecologists have discovered a new species of fish called Pethia striata in Tunga River in the Kudremukh National Park, Karnataka.

The male of the species measures 3-4cm in length and is red in colour, while the female is grey with a striking pattern of scales. The discovery of the new species was published in the journal of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists by researchers from Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) .

V. M. Atkore, an ecologist working in the Western Ghats for the last four years, had chosen Kudremukh National Park for sampling as no one had studied it before. “I had conducted pilot surveys in 2010-11 and was familiar with fish in the region. But this fish that I found in the park was different and after I sent a photo to my superior, it was confirmed this was new," said Atkore, a PhD student at the Bangalore-based Suri Sehgal Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation, ATREE.

Akore took measurements and photographs of male and female species which had striking colours and body patterns. The species was distinct in several ways, but the most striking characteristics were the pattern of scales which form oblique bars and the black blotch just before the tail. “The ring is particularly apparent in both male and female and is distinct in this species," he said.

The fish from Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot, is currently known to be found only in the two streams of Mudba and Turad, a region populated by wet evergreen and semi-evergreen forests. Pethia striata is found in small groups of 3-4 individuals in shallow pools and would be an addition to the largest family of fish, scientifically called Cyprinidae, which includes common carp, goldfish, and zebrafish.

“Biodiversity is booming in the Ghats, which is one of the biodiversity hotspots in India. But increasing human presence puts pressures on the natural resources and freshwater diversity is most sensitive to changes like water diversion and dams," said Atkore. “We still get such new discoveries in the less disturbed streams and not in polluted streams, and such discoveries are important to increase conservation efforts for this area, particularly such river stretches and streams," he added.

Freshwater biodiversity is one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world, especially in India.

“There is progressive loss of freshwater biodiversity in the country and these systems are very badly protected," said Madhav Gadgil, who served as the chairman of the Western Ghats Ecology Experts Panel which submitted its report to the central government in 2011.

Some of the recently discovered new species in the Western Ghats include a little jumping spider in the Southern Ghats, a new frog species in Central Ghats.

Last year, 14 new dancing frog species were discovered in the forests of Western Ghats.

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Published: 20 May 2015, 12:22 AM IST
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