The new freshwater species, Puntius sanctus, grows to only 7 cm
Velankanni in Tamil Nadu has thrown up a new species of small freshwater fish of the family Cyprinidae. The silver-hued fish has been christened Puntius sanctus — ‘sanctus’ is Latin for holy — after the popular pilgrim town.
The fish has been identified and named by Mathews Plamoottil, head of the Department of Zoology, BJM Government College, Chavara, in Kollam. His research was funded by the Science and Engineering Research Board of the Department of Science and Technology. Bioscience Research has published an article on the discovery.
Encountered in a small waterbody in Venlankanni, Puntius sanctus is small, it grows to a length of 7 cm. It found use both as food and as an aquarium draw, Dr. Plamoottil said.
“The Puntius species are known locally as ‘Paral’ in Kerala and ‘Kende’ in Tamil Nadu. They are purely freshwater fishes,” he said.
While the genus shows great species richness in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the specimen from Velankanni bears “distinct differences” from its Puntius cousins, he said. Its physical characteristics included a protractible mouth, a pair of maxillary barbels (a sensory organ near the snout), 24-25 lateral line scales and 10 pre-dorsal scales.
The identification of Puntius sanctus also indicated that many of our inland waterbodies were still unexplored, Dr. Plamooottil said.
The new fish is now deposited in Government of India museum (Zoological Survey of India) at Pune. It has also been registered with ZooBank of the International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature, the official authority for naming animals.