A research team led by the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (Kufos) has discovered a new species of miniature well-dwelling subterranean fish from Kozhikode.

The new species which has been named Pangio bhujia is the first species of eel-loach in the world that has been discovered to be living in subterranean environments. Eel-loaches are generally found in fast flowing streams in South and South East Asia.

A team comprising scientists from Kufos, IISER (Pune), Malabar Awareness and Rescue Centre for Wildlife (MARC), Kannur and Natural History Museum, NHM (London) discovered this fish living in a six-meter-deep homestead well used for drinking and irrigation, as well as from a channel connecting a pond to an adjacent paddy field in the village of Cherinjal in Kozhikode in April. Subsequent studies on its anatomy and genetic structure revealed that this fish represents a never-before known species of eel-loach.

“This is an exceptional discovery,” said Rajeev Raghavan, Assistant Professor at the Department of Fisheries Resource Management, Kufos who led the study. The new species has several unique characters including the absence of dorsal fin, which has never been encountered in the genus Pangio to which this new species belongs to, and is also unique among the order Cypriniformes and highly unusual even among teleost or bony fishes generally, he said.