KOCHI: A research team led by Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (Kufos) here has discovered a unique species of miniature well-dwelling subterranean fish from Kozhikode. The new species which has been named 'Pangio bhujia' is the first species of eel-loach in the world that has been discovered to be living in subterranean environments. Eel-loaches are generally found in fast-flowing streams in the south and the south-east Asia.
A team comprising scientists from Kufos, IISER (Pune), Malabar Awareness and Rescue Centre for Wildlife (MARC), Kannur, and Natural History Museum, NHM (London) discovered this fish living in a six-metre-deep homestead well used for potable and irrigation purpose, as well as from a channel connecting a pond to an adjacent paddy field in the village of Cherinjal in Kozhikode in April 2019. Subsequent studies on its anatomy and genetic structure revealed that the fish represents a never-before known species of eel-loach.
“This is an exceptional discovery,” said Dr Rajeev Raghavan, assistant professor at the Department of Fisheries Resource Management, Kufos, who led the study. “The new species has several unique characters including the absence of dorsal fin, which has never been encountered in the genus Pangio to which this new species belongs to, and is also unique among the order Cypriniformes (an order of ray-finned fish, including the carps, minnows, loaches, and relatives) and highly unusual even among teleost or bony fishes generally,” he said.
During the past one year, two other remarkable subterranean fish species were discovered by Rajeev and his team at Kufos.