IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

New family of bony fish discovered in Western Ghats

16th October, 2020 Biodiversity

Context: Scientists from India, Germany, United Kingdom and Switzerland have discovered a new family of bony fish from the Western Ghats, and named it Aenigmachannidae.

  • A year after the discovery of the enigmatic Gollum Snakehead, Aenigmachanna gollum from the rice fields of northern Kerala, scientists conducted detailed studies on its skeleton and genetic assembly.
  • The study led to the recognition that this species, and its congener Aenigmachanna mahabali.
  • Images obtained from high-resolution CT scans revealed that Aenigmachanna gollum has a surprisingly large number of primitive characters.

Living fossils

  • Members of Aenigmachannidae are “living fossils” and comprise an ancient gondwanan lineage that survived the break-up of the supercontinent and the northward drift of the Indian subcontinent, about 100 million years ago.
  • Many of these species are blind, pigment-less, and have peculiar morphological characters that are otherwise not seen in species occurring in surface waters.
  • Recognition of Aenigmachannidae as a new family of bony fishes comes six years after the description of Kryptoglanidae, another unique family of freshwater fish endemic to Kerala.
  • The presence of two unique endemic families of freshwater fish in a small region like Kerala indicates the exceptional diversity and endemicity of fishes in this part of the world.


  • Ecosystems are under high levels of threat due to indiscriminate ground water extraction and pollution, and introduction of alien species in the dugout wells.