Discovery of new species of blind catfish reveals diversity of aquatic life

T. Nandakumar
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Horaglanis abdulkalami, the third blind catfish species found in State

A breakthrough:The new species of blind catfish discovered from Thrissur.
A breakthrough:The new species of blind catfish discovered from Thrissur.

The recent discovery of a new species of blind catfish from Thrissur has turned the spotlight on the biodiversity of subsurface aquatic ecosystems in Kerala. K.K. Subhash Babu, Assistant Professor in Biology at Jimma University, Ethiopia, had reported the discovery of the new species from a dugout well at Iirinjalakuda in Thrissur.

The species named Horaglanis abdulkalami , after former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, is adapted for survival in subterranean waters.

Mr. Subhash Babu had studied the eel-like catfish while doing his Ph.D thesis at the Cochin University of Science and Technology.

The report has been published in the latest issue of Samagra, a scientific journal published by the Centre for Research in Indigenous Science and Culture (CRIKSC). H.abdulkalami is the third blind subterranean catfish discovered in Kerala.

The first one, Horaglanis krishnai was reported from Kottayam in 1951, while the second one, H.alikunhii was discovered in Central Kerala in 2004. Blood red in colour, H.abdulkalami is characterised by a narrow, elongated sub-cylindrical body with fins. The live fish was just 3.8 cm long and the body had numerous pores.

The fins were lesser in number than in the other two species of the same genus. The report says the blood red colour, due to the presence of blood vessels on the outer surface of the body, was an adaptation to overcome the low oxygen concentration in subterranean waters. Known as cutaneous respiration, the mechanism was observed in some other underground fishes such as Ugitoglanis seen in Somalia, Phereatobius in Brazil, and Silurichthys in Borneo.

The paper says H.abdulkalami could be receiving sound and other impulses from the water through the area near the base of the pectoral fin. It observes that the discovery of the fish from an old well indicated its passage through interconnected cavities or channels in laterite rocks.

According to the report, the discovery of H.abdulkalami is significant in view of the poorly documented but rich biodiversity of groundwater aquifers in India, particularly in Kerala.

It highlights the need for investigations to study the structure, distribution, and functions of subterranean fauna.



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