There always seems to be a lot more talk surrounding species that we have lost to human habitat encroachment, over-hunting, and the ripple effects of pollution. Though, an encouraging discovery in 2022, reminded us that our world is still so full of wonder, where scientists – from the conservation organization Shoal – discovered more than 200 freshwater fish species (212 to be exact)!
“It’s fascinating that over 200 new freshwater fish species can be described in just a single year,” says Shoal conservation program manager Harmony Patricio, as reported by The Guardian. “You might see this level of new discovery for organisms like plants or insects, but not really for vertebrates. It means there are still hundreds and hundreds more freshwater fish out there in the world that scientists don’t know about yet. Also, many of the newly described species have pretty unique and unexpected traits.”
Unique and special fish
One of these singular fish, named after an “X-Men” character, is the Hopliancistrus wolverine. The researchers bestowed this special name because of its hidden weapons. “This species has strong lateral curved spikes called odontodes tucked under the gill covers that can be extended to jab anything that tries to mess with them,” Patricio explains. Those responsible for collecting this fish sustained quite a few finger injuries in the process!
The scientists were also particularly thrilled about a blind swamp eel discovered in a Mumbai well. One of the team members who discovered the eel, naturalist Tejas Thackeray, posted the eel on Instagram last year, with the caption reading: “Pleased to introduce you to a species we collected a few years ago and worked on throughout the pandemic. A journey full of ups and downs, and today it finally gets to see the light of day. Presenting a new blind hypogean freshwater eel from my city—Rakthamichtys mumba—the Mumbai blind eel!”
This report is especially uplifting because, in general, freshwater fish populations are constantly facing many threats such as pollution, habitat loss, invasive species, and overfishing. The researchers hope that these numerous discoveries will only motivate governments and people to increase their efforts to conserve and protect the environment and all the living creatures in it.