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New fish found in Meghalaya

Species edible with good commercial value
Schistura syngkai

Roopak Goswami   |   Guwahati   |   Published 05.12.19, 10:02 PM

A group of scientists from Assam and Meghalaya has discovered an ornamental fish species, Schistura syngkai, from Wahblei river in Meghalaya.

The new species was spotted adjacent to a paddy field in the river’s lower stretch with a muddy bottom in June 2017.

The fish has been named Syngkai, which in Khasi means a loach-like fish. An article on the discovery has been published in the latest edition of Zootaxa, a scientific journal. According to the article, with more than 210 valid species, the genus Schistura McClelland is the most diverse group of Nemacheilid loaches, distributed throughout Indo-China and Southeast Asia.

The team of scientists that discovered the species included Dandadhar Sarma, Hrishikesh Choudhury and Abhinit Dey of Gauhati University’s zoology department and D. Khlur, B. Mukhim, and Deisakee P. Warbah of Lady Keane College, Shillong.

“The fish is edible and has good commercial as well as ornamental value,” said professor Sarma.

It has a prominent dark-brown mid-lateral stripes about an eye diameter or more in width overlain on 12 to 18 vertically-elongate black blotches on a golden-brown to amber body.

The Wahblei is a south-flowing northern tributary of the Surma-Meghna drainage that originates near Mawkhar-Pyrden area of Meghalaya’s West Khasi Hills district. Several streams and rivulets traversing dense tropical forests form the river. Before flowing into Bangladesh, the Wahblei widens as it approaches its confluence with Kynshi river, flowing from the east.

Sarma said the scientists’ team from Gauhati University found four new species from the Brahmaputra drainage system since 2016.

The unique fresh water fish resources of the Northeast makes it a potential hub of economy and it should be tapped efficiently, he added.

“Ecological environment with high humid conditions resulted larger speciation and genetic diversity of plant and animal species, thus adding to high endemicity of the flora and fauna of the region,” he added.

In eastern Himalaya, the most diverse fish fauna is exhibited in the region’s Brahmaputra drainage system. Northern Bengal and the Himalayan foothills between Bihar and Nepal harbour a total of 520 fresh water species, of which, five are critically endangered, 15 endangered, 50 vulnerable, 46 near threatened, 263 least concerned and 141 data deficient.

The Northeast alone harbours 300 fish species under 100 genera and 30 families.

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