Gollum Snakehead (Aenigmachanna gollum)
Better known as Dragon Snakehead, “the most exciting discovery in the fish world last decade!”. Most of websites and newspapers have reported this news like that including Mongabay and Natgeo Wild.
What is this dragon-like fish? Is it important? The shortest answer is yes, this is the most important discovery in the fish world in the last decade. And also this is the biggest cavefish that recorded from India. Researcher Rajeev Raghavan, a fish researcher at Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, and Ralf Britz, an ichthyologist at Senckenberg Natural History Collections, part of the Museum of Zoology in Dresden, Germany conducted research about an accidentally met fish species. Actually, the way that fish recorded was literally unbelievable.
“The saga began in early 2018, when researcher Rajeev Raghavan, a study co-author and fish researcher at Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, spotted a post on Indian social media from a person who found and photographed an odd fish retrieved from their backyard well. Raghavan sent the photo to Britz, who had “no idea what it was,” Britz says—not the species, genus, or family. Britz travelled to India after Raghavan and other colleagues had collected more specimens, to scientifically describe the fish.” Says the National Geographic website.
After a few months, the research paper was published in Zootaxa in May 2019, as a new species. And also a new genus. The genus was named as Aenigmachanna and the new species was named Aenigmachanna gollum after the subterranean Lord of the Rings character “Gollum”. Then, another researcher discovered another fish species of this genus, Mahabali snakehead.
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The Dragon snakehead is distributed in the Western Ghats of southern India. After months they found another Gollum snakeheads surfacing into a flooded rice paddy. The Britz and his team conducted further research and finally realized that this fish species does not belong to either Family Channidae or any known freshwater fish family. The genetic studies show they are more diverse from species in family Channidae and A. gollum belongs to a new family called Aenigmachannidae.
The dragon snakeheads (Gollum Snakehead) have “a whole series of primitive characteristics,” and are rightly called “living fossils,” says David Johnson, an ichthyologist at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. This species is commonly known as Dragon snakehead (Gollum Snakehead) because of their dragon-like shape. Britz says the family’s common name is fitting because “everyone who sees a photo of the fish is somehow reminded of a dragon.”
Why such living fossils survive without diversifying much remains a mystery. “I can’t begin to understand why,” Johnson says. -NatGeo Website
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Special thanks: Professor Rajee Raghavan