Far-famed for the silence of the cicadas(though now they are aplenty) and the endemic Lion Tailed Macaque, the Silent Valley National Park in Kerala, India has just got another endemic organism to its credits, when researchers identified a new species of stone loach from Kunthippuzha which flows through the National Park.
|Balitora Jalpalli, new stone loach species from Kunthi River in Silent Valley National Park|
(Image Credit: Josin Tharian)
According to a study published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa, the new species of Stone loach differs from its close relatives in head length, caudal peduncle depth, maximum head width and in the number and pattern of bands on the dorsal side. It has a different number of ventral fin rays and pectoral fin rays than its close relatives also.
Water Lizard of Kunthi River
The newly identified fish belongs to the genus Balitora, and is named as Balitora Jalpalli. According to the authors of the study, the fish was named so for its lizard like characteristics. 'Jal’ means Water and ‘Palli’ means Lizard in the local language, making ‘Jalpalli’ equivalent to ‘Water-lizard’. It “refers to the lizard like appearance of the fish, and its habit of clinging to the rocks in fast flowing streams,” says the study. According to the researchers who have conducted the study, the newly identified stone loach can be commonly called as Silent Valley Stone Loach as well.
The researchers were able to spot the fish from Valleparathodu, near Poochippara from the Kunthi River which is a tributary of Bharathappuzha, a major river in the state. According to the study, this habitat is a high altitude stream which is usually inhabited by other fishes like Mesonoemacheilus remadevii, Homaloptera pillai, Bhavania australis and Garra menoni.
Genus Balitora consists of 11 to 12 species of fishes so far among which two were reported from Kerala. The new species discovery makes the Balitora strength in state to three.
Conservation Significance of Western Ghats Rivers
The identification and description of B. Jalpalli from Western Ghats comes on close heels to a similar species discovery from Krishna River, yet another major river in Western Ghats. Researchers have identified and described another species of Balitora - Balitora Laticuda - from Krishna River in 2012. These new discoveries point out to the rich but unexplored aquatic fauna of Western Ghats Rivers and the exigency to conserve the freshwater ecosystem in the region.
However, habitat destruction is rampant in Western Ghats Rivers due to anthropogenic pressure. According to the study, immediate conservation efforts and taxonomic explorations should be carried out in the area to unearth the unraveled marvels of biodiversity here. “The description of one more species of freshwater fish from the Western Ghats reiterate our views that the ichthyofauna of the region continues to be poorly known and is in need of increased exploratory surveys and associated taxonomic research”, say the researchers.
Rajeev Raghavan and Anvar Ali of Conservation Research Group (CRG), St. Albert’s College, Kochi,
Josin Tharian of Laboratory for Systematics and Conservation, Department of Zoology, St. John’s College, Anchal, Shrikant Jadhav, Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) and Neelesh Dahanukar of Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) co-authored the paper in the Journal of Threatened Taxa..