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New species of fish found in Karnataka

Bengaluru: A new species of fish has been discovered in the Kudremukh National Park (KNP) in Karnataka by a team of experts and researchers from the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) in Bengaluru.

The newly discovered species, now named Pethia striata, belongs to the family Cyprinidae, which includes the delicious common carp (a food fish), the aquarium goldfish and the zebrafish, a much studied model organism for genetics.

V M Atkore is a researcher from ATREE who is currently studying the effect of habitat disturbance on fish biodiversity in the wet evergreen and semi-evergreen forests of the KNP which are parts of the Western Ghats. As part of his study, he conducted extensive fish sampling in the Tunga river basin located in KNP. During one such excursion, he came across a group of fish which had a golden spot near their tails and an unusual striated (striped) appearance.

“I was unable to identify the fish at the species  level, and so showed it to Dr K Rema Devi from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI, Chennai) who is an expert in fish taxonomy”, said Atkore. With help from Dr J D Marcus Knight and Dr J Krishnaswamy, the fish was identified as a new species of Pethia from the Western Ghats. The discovery has been reported in a research article in the journal Copeia.The new species was named  Pethia striata due to the distinct striations or stripes along the sides of the body. It is a relatively small fish of about 3-4cm in length. 

During the breeding season, the males exhibit a striking red coloration, while the females are coloured a muted greenish-grey. The species is currently thought to be endemic to the Western Ghats, and has been observed in only two streams (the Mudba and the Turad) of the Tunga river basin.

Pethia striata is a fairly rare species found in small groups of 3-4 individuals in shallow pools with gently flowing water beneath the shade of dense canopy.

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