New species of eel found in Bay of Bengal

The one-foot long fish, which has 194 vertebrae, is likely to be called Indian unpatterned moray

August 21, 2016 12:36 am | Updated 02:10 pm IST - Kolkata:

Scientists have discovered a new species of eel, a snake-like fish, from the northern Bay of Bengal along the West Bengal coast.

The species Gymnothorax indicus is slender-bodied, about one feet-long and edible.

The eel was studied by the scientists at Sankarpur fishing harbour in West Bengal’s Purba Medinipur district, after it was collected in a trawl net by fishermen in northern Bay of Bengal, about 70 km off the coast.

“When fresh, the body is uniformly pale brown without spots or patterns and the eye rim is pale. We have proposed that the newly discovered species be called Indian unpatterened moray,” Anil Mohapatra, scientist from Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) told The Hindu .

The scientist said that the eel has 194 vertebrae. Its dorsal fin has a black margin.

The paper by Mr. Mohapatra, Dipanjan Ray, David G. Smith and Subhendu Sekhar Mishra was published in an international journal, Zootaxa , earlier this week.

Eaten in coastal areas

Eels are found mostly at the bottom of rivers and seas. This species was found at a depth of 35 metres in the sea.

Globally, about 1,000 species of eels have been identified and, in India, the number is around 125. Though considered a delicacy in many countries like Japan, the consumption of eels in India is limited to coastal areas.

With over-exploitation of fishing resources both freshwater and marine, scientists believe that these newly discovered species may contribute to food security in the future. Over the past few years, West Bengal’s Digha coastline and the adjoining areas of Bay of Bengal have yielded two new species of fish indicating the rich marine biodiversity of the coastal region.

In 2015, a short brown unpatterned moray eel, named Gymnothorax mishrai (Bengal moray eel), was discovered here.

Two years ago, scientists had discovered another new species of edible marine fish Haplogenys bengalensis (Indian velvetchin) from the same area.

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