Kochi: A research team of Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS) along with British scientists have found a new species of 'snakehead fish' in the subterranean waters of Kerala. The scientific paper reporting the finding, made by Dr. Rajeev Raghavan, assistant professor at the Department of Fisheries Resource Management, Kufos, and V.K. Anoop, a research student under him, will be published in the international animal taxonomy journal Zootaxa, published form Auckland.
The fish has been named Aenigmachanna gollum (Gollum Snakehead- common name) after 'Gollum', a character from the 'The Lord of the Rings', a creature that changed its morphological features. The new fish has been identified as new genus of the snakehead family Channidae (which is currently represented by two other genera, Channa in Asia, and Parachanna in Africa).
Snakehead fishes (varaal - in Malayalam) of the family Channidae are predatory freshwater fish comprising 50 valid species, many of which are important edible fishes. Although readily recognised as a member of the family Channidae, the new species shows several morphological features that are highly unusual or even unique in comparison to its closest relatives. Aenigmachanna gollum also represents the first species of snakehead to be recorded from subterranean waters.
Ajeer, fish hobbyist, stumbled upon this interesting fish on his rice field near Vengara in Malappuram District of Kerala. "The fish had a strikingly distinct morphology from any other species found in India, and the fact that it represented a new species was evident from the moment I saw the specimens" said Mr Anoop, a co-author of the paper.