Science & Environment

Blind cat fish species discovered

Blind catfish
Image caption The discoverers say species like this play key roles in subterranean ecosystems

A new species of blind cat fish has been discovered by scientists working in south India.

This, along with other new animals, were identified in an old deep well in the southern Indian state of Kerala.

The new blind cat fish, which is blood red in colour, has an elongated body measuring about 3.8cm in length.

The scientists say the find sheds light on hitherto unexplored subterranean habitats in India.

The new species of blind cat fish has been named Horaglanis abdulkalami after former Indian President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.

It was meant as a tribute to his contributions to science and science education, the discoverers said.

The unique character of H. abdulkalami is its red blood colour. The scientists say the fish are able to feed on minute organic matter in the soil.

Kerala's wetlands provide an ideal habitat for such animals. Species like the catfish are key to maintaining these ecosystems, since their faeces provide sustenance to other species.

The researchers are working to sequence the catfish's genome, to determine whether it might be related to any other species within India or in other countries.

"We gave done the basic morphology of the species, but we are still going into the molecular characterisation to trace their ancestors and their evolutionary links," Dr Bijoy Nandan from Cochin University of Science and Technology told the BBC Tamil Service.

The same team also discovered a new species of blind eel in the area.

It has been named Monopterus trichurensis after the district of Trissur (formerly Trichur) where the discovery was made.

Scientists say that because of the endemic distribution and scarcity of these two species should be treated under the threatened list of IUCN.

"Our observations from various studies indicate they could live for a couple of years," said Dr Nandan.

But he added that further studies would have to be carried to determine the longevity of the animals.

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