Snakehead Fish Found In Kerala

Snakehead Fish Found In Kerala

New Delhi: Scientists have determined that a species of snakehead fish discovered in the Western Ghats in Kerala which belongs to a unique family distinct from fish species found in the world.

Snakehead fish are freshwater species, generally found in Africa and Asia. They are predatory fish different by their long dorsal fins, large mouths, and shiny teeth.

What is most interesting about the Gollum snakehead, according to the study, is that scientists describe it as a ‘living fossil’.

The fish derive from an ancient gondwanan lineage that lived the division of the supercontinent and the northward gist of the Indian subcontinent about 100 million years ago.

The fish, which live in the dark groundwaters, keep on lonely from the rest of the world, which is why their behaviour and characteristics did not evolve much over these hundred million years.

As a result, they serve as ‘living fossils’ providing a window into prehistoric marine life, the study said.

“Throughout my career, I have worked on many strange fish, but the Gollum Snakehead is easily the weirdest of them all. If I had been asked whether such a fish existed in the Western Ghats or anywhere in the world, I would have said, no way,” said Ralf Britz, from Senckenberg Museum at Dresden, Germany, who led the study.

Underground species discovered in wells or taps

Two specimens of the fish were found accidentally about two years ago. A local enthusiast in Kerala found them in the paddy fields of Kerala, shortly after they were flooded during the devastating August 2018 deluge.

Having never seen such fish before, the person shared pictures of it on social media, following which Rajeev Raghavan, assistant professor at the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, first spotted it. Raghavan is one of the authors of the study.

“Usually, scientists look for new species by throwing nets into rivers or ocean systems,” Raghavan told ThePrint.

“However, there is no way of monitoring or deliberately catching fish species that live under the surface of Earth,” he said.

Such species are found either when people empty their wells in the summer in preparation for the rainy season or when individual fish get into taps that are used to source groundwater.

The Aenigmachanna family of fishes has another member called ‘Aenigmachanna mahabali’, which was also discovered in Kerala a year ago when local residents were cleaning out a well.

Both gollum and mahabali — the latter named after the asura (demon) king believed to have lived underground — were initially thought to belong to a snakehead freshwater fish family known as Channidae.

However, high-resolution CT scans of the fish revealed that Aenigmachanna gollum has a large number of primitive characters. Further genetic analysis of the fish suggested that the family was separated from the Channidae family between 34 and 109 million years ago, said the study.


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