After being popularly called ‘humpback mahseer’ for nearly 150 years, the giant game fish has finally got a scientific name.

The species, found in the Cauvery river, was recently christened
Tor ramadevii
, after noted ichthyologist K. Remadevi of the Zoological Survey of India. The DNA sequencing of the fish was carried out by a group of icthyologists from the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS), Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, and Bournemouth University, UK, as part of the naming process.

The species was “brought to the attention of the scientific community in 1849, and the recreational angling community in 1873,” noted a research paper authored by Adrian Pinder of Bournemouth University and published in the scientific journal
Plos One

The fish was assigned the name after it was found possessing the same genetic and morphological characteristics of mahseer found inside the waterbodies of the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala, said Rajeev Raghavan, Assistant Professor, Department of Fisheries Resource Management, KUFOS, who was associated with the research.

The species had slipped the attention of conservationists in the absence of a scientific name. There was no legal and conservation cover for the species. The only solace for the species was that being in Chinnar, a protected area and a wildlife sanctuary, it was protected from fishing, said Dr. Radhavan, who is also the IUCN Freshwater Fish Red List Authority coordinator (South, North, East Asia and Oceania).

Though no population estimation has been carried out, historic records indicate a dramatic depletion in its numbers. Probably, the species may be on the edge of extinction, he said

The Hindu
had reported the identification of the species
Tor ramedevii
from Chinnar in 2004.

Since the nomenclature, fisheries conservationists have started reviewing the conservation status of the species for updating the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The species qualifies to be categorised as Critically Endangered, Dr. Raghavan said.

The fish is endemic to the south Cauvery river system and its tributaries. The distribution of the species is now limited to “some small pockets in Coorg, Moyar, Bhavani, Kabini, Pambar, all the upstream tributaries of the Cauvery.”

The fish can grow up to a length of 1.5 metres and weigh up to 55 kg and qualifies as megafauna, researchers said.

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