Wildlife & Biodiversity

Scientists find new eel species in Odisha, name it Odishi

The species may face minimal threat for survival as it was discovered in an unpolluted area

By Bhavya Khullar
Published: Friday 18 May 2018

Specimen of the Odishi Eel (scientific name-Gymnothorax odishi) was discovered in the Bay of Bengal. Scientists at the Zoological Survey of India in Odisha have discovered a new species of moray eel from the Bay of Bengal and named it Odishi, after the state in which it was first found, according to a study published in the journal Zootaxa.

Eels, which are long and slender fishes, are important components of aquatic ecosystems. They prey on smaller organisms like snails and crabs and become food for larger fishes, making them important links in the food chain, explains Dr Anil Mohapatra, scientist at the Estuarine Biology Regional Centre of the Zoological Survey of India in Ganjam, Odisha, who is the lead author of the study. His team discovered the Odishi moray (scientific name: Gymnothorax odishi) under a large scale project that began three years ago with an aim to document the diversity of eels in the eastern coast of India. The survey has brought many previously unknown species of fishes to our knowledge, says Mahapatra. 

The Odishi moray was found in January this year when scientists accidentally caught 11 of them in a five-metre-deep net, which they had laid in Gopalpur coast area. After thorough examination, they categorized the Odishi moray as a brown short unpatterned eel because it had a uniform dark body color and a medium length of 42-70 cm. It differed from other species of short unpatterned eels in having a black spot behind the eye, more number of vertebrae and fins, white rims to jaw pores and larger eyes, the authors note in their paper.

“Before we found the Odishi eel, there was only a single species of brown short unpatterned eel – Gymnothorax mishrai known from India. With this new finding, the number of Indian species has now risen to two,” remarks the scientist. He adds that Gopalpur coast, where the Odishi moray was discovered is an unpolluted area and this makes him hopeful that the new species faces minimal threat to existence in the near future. “But locals of the area engage in fishing for food and eels do accidentally get caught. Over fishing is becoming a menace in several countries of the world and we are no exception. Hence, it is important that we regulate fishing in the country to ensure its conservation and safety of other aquatic species,” he signs off.

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