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Sunday, December 2

New enigmatic blind cat fish species named after missile man of India

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The lesser known subterranean world of blind catfishes in the Western Ghats now has some connection with the missile man of India, as a newly identified species of blind cat fish was named after A P J Abdul Kalam, former India President and well-known aerospace engineer who was instrumental in developing India’s ballistic missiles and launch vehicle technology. Collected from a dugout well of Irinjalakkuda in the South Indian state of Kerala, the new cat fish species has been christened as Horaglanis abdulkalami.

Third blind cat fish known to science 

Horaglanis krishnai, Horaglanis alikunhii, Horglanis abdulkalami, blind cat fishes, subterranean fishes
Horaglanis krishnai, Horaglanis alikunhii and Horglanis abdulkalami
According to the research paper published in an Indian journal regarding the discovery, the new species is physiologically different from the two known blind cat fish species - H. Krishnai and H. alikunhii

Gill membrane of the newly found fish is free at the base of the isthmus. They are united only half distance towards the tip of the lower jaw from the base. Moreover, the presence of 13 brancheostegal rays and the 21 unbranched rays on the dorsal fin also makes it different from other known species. In addition, the newly identified fish has a rounded caudal fin with 28 rays with six of them branched.

The new fish is 3.8 cm long and was red blood in colour when first collected. Like similar species, H. abdulkalami is also blind, an adaptation for its dark subterranean habitat, says researchers.

According to Dr. K K Subhash Babu who has collected the fish and described it, the fish still retains respiration through the skin. “With help of Scanning electron microscope (SEM), we can see its body with full of pores, especially head region.  Apart from its gills respiration, they can respire through its skin also. It is very common with all newly hatched fishes which slowly turn to gill respiration. But H. abdulkalmi, seems to retain this capacity”, says he.

Missile Man connection of H. abdulkalami

Illustration, pectoral and pelvic fin of H. abdulkalami, abdulkalami
Illustration showing pectoral and pelvic fin of H. abdulkalami
According to the researcher, he has decided to name the new discovery after Kalam, whom he found inspiring as a researcher. “When I was in Cochin University, I wrote to him about this fish and my intention to give his name to this remarkable fish and he very much appreciated my work”, he said.

Presently an Assistant Professor at the Department of Biology at University of Jimma in Ethiopia, Dr. K K Subhash Babu shares the credit of describing another blind catfish under the same genus – Horglanis alikunhi with another researcher.

The new discovery now adds to our limited knowledge of the unexplored word of subterranean eco system of the Western Ghats.

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