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New species of fish discovered in India

April 2, 2013

At team of Indian freshwater scientists have found a new species of freshwater fish in one of the most biodiverse regions of the world.

Balitora jalpalli

Newly discovered species of Stone Loach – Balitora jalpalli

The new species, which was found in  the Kunthi river in South-West India, is a type of stone loach fish and has been called the  ‘Balitora jalpalli’. It becomes the lucky 13th species of the Balitora genus, which live in the hill streams of South and South-East Asia, four of which can be found in India. The name ‘jalpalli’ is a combination of two Sanskrit words: ‘jal’ meaning water and ‘palli’ meaning ‘small lizard’ and it is named so because of its lizard-like appearance and its behaviour of clinging to rocks in fast-flowing waterways.

Caudal peduncle

Caudal peduncle

The tiny fish is just over 6cm in length and has a yellow-brown appearance. The researchers say that the new species can be distinguished from its cousins by the size of its head (length and width), unique patterns and the number of bands on its back, and differences in the narrow part of the fish’s body that connects to the tail fin – or for the fish biologists among us the caudal peduncle, a sexy name for a body part if ever there was one!

Western Ghats. Photo: UNESCO

Western Ghats. Photo: UNESCO

The Kunthi, where the Balitora jalpalli was found,  is a tributary of Bharathapuzha River, India’s second-longest river. It runs through the Silent Valley National Park in southern Western Ghats, in the state of Kerala. The Western Ghats is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in the top 10 ‘hottest biodiversity hotspots’ in the world. This latest find follows the discovery of another species of stone loach in the Western Ghats just last year and highlights the importance of the region as one of the world’s richest sources of biodiversity. The Western Ghats is home to over 5,000 species of flowering plants, over 500 bird species, 179 amphibian species, 139 species of mammals, over 100 freshwater fish species and now one more ! It is likely than many more species remain to found in this oasis of biodiversity.

The findings were published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa.

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