Zoological Survey Of India Discovers New Eel Species Off Odisha Coast

Berhampur: Researchers at Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have discovered a new species of snake eel Ophichthus (Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae) off the Odisha coast.

The study was conducted on specimens collected from two different estuaries (Subarnarekha and Bahuda) along the coast and one specimen from coastal fishers of Paradip Fish Landing Centre.

“Preliminary examination indicated that they belong to genus Ophichthus. Later, examination of morphological, meristic and molecular characters confirmed that they were unique new species,” said Anil Mohapatra of Estuarine Biology Regional Centre, ZSI, Gopalpur who led the research team.

The team comprised Rajesh Kumar Behera, Smrutirekha Acharya, Subhrendu Sekhar Mishra and Mohapatra. They found that the new species can be distinguished from its closely allied congeners Ophichthus alleni, Ophichthus zophistius and Ophichthus altipennis, and other members in this genus by the dorsal fin origin (DFO) just above or slightly anterior to the gill opening besides its unique vertebral count and teeth patterns consisting of multiple rows on both maxilla and mandible.

The new species found has the origin of the dorsal fin (DFO) just above or slightly anterior to the gill opening while pectoral fin is small, rounded, and white in colour, with no dark blotch on the anterior lobe of the dorsal fin. The teeth are small and numerous, uniserial at beginning of maxillary and triserial at end, mandibular teeth biserial anteriorly and triserial posteriorly, the ZSI research team informed.

For the research, four fresh fish samples were collected from Talasari, Balasore captured from Subarnarekha Estuary, one sample from Paradip from the coastal fishers and one sample from Bahuda Estuary at Sunapur. The specimens were preserved in 10 per cent formalin and deposited at the National Repository of the Estuarine Biology Regional Centre, ZSI Gopalpur-on-Sea.

The study has been published in the Bulletin of Marine Science Volume 100 No. 0 2024 of the Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science of the University of Miami.

According to researchers, there are 1,069 species of eel order Anguilliformes belonging to 21 families. Among them, Ophichthidae is the most spacious family having 365 valid species worldwide with two subfamilies, Myrophinae (72 species) and Ophichthinae (293 species). In Indian waters, subfamily Ophichthinae has 27 species belonging to nine genera of which the genus Ophichthus comprises only 15 species.


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