Schistura scripta in its natural habitat Schistura scripta in its natural habitat
Jan 14, 2019

New fish species discovered on Sunshine Estates

A recent research project carried out in the stream - Seethala Dola, Nakiyadeniya, located in the Sunshine Holdings’ estates, yielded an unexpected and positive surprise.

The research, carried out to with the purpose of surveying freshwater fishes, led to the discovery of a new species of fish in Nakiyadeniya, in the South Western lowlands of Sri Lanka.

The species, which is endemic to Sri Lanka, has been formally named Schistura scripta. The existence of this species was previously unknown to science.

Sunshine Holdings PLC, the holding company for Watawala Plantations has initiated a conservation project targeting this species, which is presently understood to be found only in Nakiyadeniya Estate, thereby adding to the count of 50 species of fish that are endemic to Sri Lanka. An environmental sustainability project to restore native vegetation on the sides of the stream while educating the local population of the existence of the fish, coupled with impressing upon them the need to not pollute the stream, has already been initiated and will be implemented shortly. The very existence of the fish in itself is a tribute to good environmental management practices of the plantation over a sustained period of time.

Schistura1 670px 19 01 14Mr. Hiranya Sudasinghe who discovered the speciesSpeaking, postgraduate student at the University of Peradeniya - Hiranya Sudasinghe, who discovered the species said : “This new species is a loach belonging to the genus Schistura. Loaches are bottom-dwelling fish found in freshwater streams and rivers. They have small barbels, resembling tentacles on their snout, which act as sensory organs. Most loaches have either 3 pairs or 4 pairs of barbels."

"When I first saw this species underwater while snorkeling, I immediately realized this species was different from the other two species of Schistura that are known from Sri Lanka. The color pattern, which is a useful diagnostic character for this group of fish, is remarkably different in Schistura scripta when compared with the other two species: Schistura madhavai and Schistura notostigma. Schistura scripta has more bars in the body. Then close examination of this species revealed that it has several other morphological characters as well, which differentiate it from the other two species."

With the addition of this new species, the genus Schistura is represented in Sri Lanka by three species, all of which are endemic to the island. The new species was named as "scripta" as a reference to the pattern of bars on the body of this species resembling alphabetical characters; ‘scripta’, in Latin, means ‘written words’. The suggested common names for this new species are ‘Nakiyadeniya Mountain Loach’ and ‘Nakiyadeniya Ehirava’. Based on the present observations, this species is restricted to a single stream called ‘Seethala dola’ within Nakiyadeniya Estate of Sunshine Holdings. However, further study is needed to understand its abundance and distribution.

With the addition of this new species, there are now about 93 native freshwater fish species in Sri Lanka, out of which 54 are endemic to the country. Most of these endemic freshwater fishes are found only in the southwestern Sri Lanka where there are rainforest habitats.”

Click here for the research paper with regard to this new discovery

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