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Monday, October 18, 2021

New species of swamp eel discovered in Mumbai

The new species was found by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's younger son Tejas Thackeray and the team at Thackeray Wildlife Foundation in a 40-foot deep well on the premises of a blind school at Jogeshwari West in 2019.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai |
Updated: October 1, 2021 8:16:07 am
This is the fifth species from the genus to be described from India. (Representational)

A new species of swamp eel belonging to the genus Rakthamicthys that is endemic to India was discovered in a well in Mumbai. It was named Rakthamichthys Mumba – the Mumbai blind eel.

The new species was found by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s younger son Tejas Thackeray and the team at Thackeray Wildlife Foundation in a 40-foot deep well on the premises of a blind school at Jogeshwari West in 2019. Thackeray collected 10 specimens from the well for the study.

This is the fifth species from the genus to be described from India.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Tejas Thackeray said, “In 2017-18 there were many discoveries in the southern region of sub-continent. While I was touring Borivali, a man told me that there was a pink coloured snake, which was first spotted in 2005 and never seen later. We started touring areas in Borivali and Jogeshwari and I found this Blind Hypogean Freshwater Eel in a school meant for blind children in Jogeshwari. We collected specimens but then Covid struck. I had a lot of discussions about the specimen with Dr Pravinraj Jaisimha, who is my senior.’’

Tejas Thackeray later collected nearly 10 such specimens and some were used for morphology and phylogenetic purposes. “We named this specimen after Mumbai,” he added.

Other than Tejas Thackeray, scientists from various institutes collaborated in making this discovery — Jayasimhan Praveenraj, Anil Mohapatra, Annam Pavan-Kumar.

Unlike other species of its genus, the Mumba lacks eyes, fins and scales, has jaws equal in forward extent, different gill aperture, crescentic-shaped cephalic. This is the first completely blind subterranean freshwater fish species to be described from Maharashtra and the Northern western Ghats.

The species name Mumba refers to the locality in Mumbai. The word ‘Mumba’ derives its roots from the Marathi language, which honours Mumba Aai, a deity worshipped by inhabitants of the city.

The article ‘Rakthamichthys Mumba, a new species of Hypogean eel (Teleostei: Synbranchidae) from Mumbai, Maharashtra, India’ was published in September 2021 in Aqua International Journal of Ichthyology.

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