A popular aquarium fish had not been described by science

Redtail Clawfish have olive-green scales and goldfinch skin that change abruptly to bright orange and red along the tail, making them easy to spot on the bottom of clear streams.

Redtail Clawfish have olive-green scales and goldfinch skin that change abruptly to bright orange and red along the tail, making them easy to spot on the bottom of clear streams. – TANGJITJAROEN ET AL. (2023)

July 11 () –

A popular fish species in the aquarium trade since the early 2000s, the red tail clawwas unknown to science until now.

The researchers were aware of the existence of the fish, but “discovering” a new species requires a scientific description based on specimens collected in their natural environment.

Red-tailed claws appear to be restricted to a small stretch of river that straddles the Thai-Myanmar border. The locality is isolated and difficult to access, so wild red-tailed claws they have existed in relative obscurity, despite their global appeal.

Larry Page, curator of ichthyology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, has examined fish in Thailand every year since 2007. He recently came across some redtail talons while doing field work along the Kasat River, a tributary of the Ataran River in neighboring Myanmar.

“When we first collected specimens, we thought it must be widespread in Myanmar due to its popularity in the aquarium trade. But it turns out it’s not. It’s only in the Ataran river basin,” he said. it’s a statement.

Page and his colleagues published the description of the new species in the journal Zootaxa. Redtails take their place among nearly 200 additional species in the genus Garra, one of the most diverse and widely distributed groups of fish anywhere on Earth. Garra can be found in streams and rivers from the far reaches of West Africa to the Middle East, India, and South and East Asia, including parts of China. However, their ubiquity has not resulted in a corresponding amount of research on the group.

“There is surprisingly little information about its natural history,” Page said. There are few studies that broadly assess diversity in the genus, and little is known about the relationships or how various groups within the genus Garra have diversified.

According to Page, basic information on fish biology is available, but often in the form of studies on individual species or regions. “Most of them live in fast-moving water and have a disc-shaped structure formed from a modified lower lip, which they use as a sticky pad to adhere to rocks and maintain their position in the water column while feeding“, said.

Claw subsists mainly on algae and the occasional arthropod, which they eat by scraping debris from rocks with specialized mouthparts. Like other species in the genus, redtails lack a stomach and have a snout encrusted with hardened, modified scales called tubercles. Similar structures in other groups of fish are temporary; They are used to defend the nests, but they fall off after the breeding season is over. The tubercles of the red-tailed claw are permanently attached and appear to be used as weapons, based on aggressive behavior observed in aquaria.

The red-tailed claw can be distinguished by its unique, elongated snout, covered in even more tubercles, which can be raised or lowered, apparently as a means of intimidating opponents during combative encounters. As their common name suggests, their tails are patterned red like a signal fire.

Their unique color pattern and painstaking ability to remove algae have made them a coveted component of aquarium tanks, but their late addition to the list of scientifically described species underscores the pressing need to take stock of biodiversity in understudied regions.

Page, who is working on a book describing fish from the Mae Klong river basin in Thailand, said the late description of the redtail claw is part of a larger recurring pattern. “Many of the Southeast Asian fish are named after species discovered in India or Indonesia because they look alike.” People know that particular species exist, Page said, but they are confused with those of other geographic areas and, consequently, their diversity has been drastically underestimated.

Page and his colleagues named the new species Garra panitvongi, after the author of another book on the fish of Thailand, Nonn Panitvong. Hailed as a biodiversity hero by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Panitvong is both a businessman and an avid naturalist. He has nurtured a passion for nature since childhood, translating books about animals written in English with the help of his mother. He developed a special appreciation for Thailand’s aquatic life from his father, who took him fishing.

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