Monday, July 06, 2009

A new subspecies of Blind Cave Fish

A new subspecies of Blind Cave Fish of the genus Garra (Teleostei:Cyprinidae) from Wadi Al Wurayah pools, Emirate of Fujairah, United ArabEmirates is described. This subspecies is distinguished from the other threesubspecies of Garra barreimiae living in Bahrain, Oman and United Arab Emirates,by its distinctive body colouration and the small size. It is morphologicallyand geographically distinct from the other subspecies. The new subspecies wasnamed Garra barreimiae wurayahi Khalaf, 2009.During a field trip to Wadi Al Wurayah, the U.A.E.'s first mountain protectedarea, located in Al Hajar Mountains, Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates,on Friday the 26th June 2009, accompanied with my wife Ola and my daughter Nora,I inspected Wadi Al Wurayah pools and waterfall, and saw many blind cave fish(Garra barreimiae Fowler and Steinitz, 1956) swimming in the pool waters. Thesefish were observed, examined and measured.Description and Distinctive Features:After examining Garra barreimiae at the pools of Wadi Al Wurayah, I begancomparing between the different Arabian Blind Cave Fish subspecies. There arethree Garra barreimiae subspecies living in the Arabian Peninsula: The two OmaniBlind Cave Fish subspecies Garra barreimiae barreimiae Fowler & Steinitz, 1956,from Al Buraimi Oasis; and Garra barreimiae gallagheri Krupp, 1988, from Seeqand Wadi Bani Khalid north of Muqal; and the Emirati Blind Cave Fish subspeciesGarra barreimiae shawkahensis Banister and Clarke, 1977, from Wadi Shawkah,Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah.Garra barreimiae, named after the Al Buraimi Oasis, Oman, is by far the mostcommon native freshwater fish species found in the United Arab Emirates. In manywadis Garra barreimiae is the only fish present. The Wadi Al Wurayah subspeciesGarra barreimiae wurayahi Khalaf, 2009, have a small size. Young specimens are1-4 centimeters, and adults are 4.5–7 centimeters. They are mottled brown incolour, typically dark but varying somewhat with the surroundings. Larger adultssometimes show more colourful red, white or blue markings, probably related tobreeding status.Distribution:Garra barreimiae is endemic to Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and northern Oman.Separate subspecies have been recognized on the east and west flanks of theHajar Mountains, respectively, but these cannot be distinguished by fieldobservation alone. The subspecies Garra barreimiae wurayahi is endemic to WadiAl Wurayah, Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. The genus Garra is knownfrom East Africa to South Asia and several other Garra species are endemic tothe mountains of south-western Arabia, but the closest relatives of Garrabarreimiae is thought to be the newly discovered Omani Garra smarti, and theIrani Garra persica, which is widespread in southern Iran.Natural History and Habitat:Garra barreimiae has a behavioural tendency to explore upstream, which probablyfacilitates dispersal when the wadis flow. Smaller adults have been observed toclimb several meters up waterfalls, using the wet surface of the splash zoneadjacent to the main flow of water, sometimes wriggling, sometimes jettingforward, resting periodically with pectoral fins spread, the mouth plate engagedfor suction, and the tail twisted and pressed flat against the rock.They feed on detritus and algae and have a specialized mouth plate thatfunctions as a suction device. They resemble aquarium catfish as they nuzzletheir way over gravel and rock surfaces, but they dart about frantically whenapproached in shallow pools where they are vulnerable to terrestrial and avianpredators.Little is known about the life history of G. barreimiae in the wild. Severalanecdotal reports exist of the release of eggs and sperm during transport ofspecimens, provoking speculation that spawning may be triggered by turbulence,mimicking that of a wadi in spate. G. barreimiae will cannibalize its own eggsif conditions permit. Experiments have shown that G. barreimiae can toleratewater temperatures up to ca. 40ºC (104ºF) and salinity up to one-third that ofsea water, but they usually live in water temperature between 18°C - 24°C, andpH range: 6.5 - 7.5; and dH range: 10 – 20.Garra and Locals:Garra barreimiae is caught and eaten by human residents of the Hajar Mountains,even today. The normal technique employs a V-shaped stone dam to channel thefish onto a portable sieve-like platform made from palm ribs, wire mesh or nylonnetting. This can be very effective, eliminating all but the very smallest fishin the area, but only G. barreimiae is taken for food, even when other speciesare present.Status:Vulnerable (IUCN).Conclusion:After examining the Garra barreimiae at Wadi Al Wurayah shallow pools, andcomparing the different Arabian Blind Cave Fish subspecies, and referring tomany zoological references, and searching the Internet, I came finally to aconclusion that we are in front of a new subspecies of the Blind Cave Fish fromWadi Al Wurayah pools, Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates.I gave it the scientific name Garra barreimiae wurayahi, new subspecies. Thesubspecies name "wurayahi" is Latin for Wadi Al Wurayah.Garra barreimiae wurayahi, new subspecies:Scientific trinomial name: Garra barreimiae wurayahi Khalaf, 2009.Common Name: Emirati Blind Cave Fish, Wadi Al Wurayah Blind Cave Fish.Location: Wadi Al Wurayah pools, Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates.Date of capture: 26th June, 2009.

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