Balitora jalpalli, a new species of stone loach (Teleostei: Cypriniformes: Balitoridae) from Silent Valley, southern Western Ghats, India

 

Rajeev Raghavan 1, Josin Tharian 2, Anvar Ali 3, Shrikant Jadhav 4 & Neelesh Dahanukar 5

 

1,3 Conservation Research Group (CRG), St. Albert’s College, Kochi, Kerala 682018, India

1,5 Zoo Outreach Organization (ZOO), 96 Kumudham Nagar, Villankurichi Road, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu 641035, India

2 Laboratory for Systematics and Conservation, Department of Zoology, St. John’s College, Anchal, Kerala 691306, India

4 Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Western Regional Centre, Vidyanagar, Akurdi, Pune, Maharashtra 411044, India

5 Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Sai Trinity Building, Sus Road, Pashan, Pune, Maharashtra 411021, India

Emails: 1 rajeevraq@hotmail.com (corresponding author), 2 josinc@stjohns.ac.in, 3 anvaraliif@gmail.com,

4 shrikantj123@yahoo.com, 5 n.dahanukar@iiserpune.ac.in

 

 

 

doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o3277.3921-34 | ZooBank: urn:lsid:zoobank.org:pub:B78EB68F-EC09-4871-B392-1E01875999A5

 

Editor: W. Vishwanath, Manipur University, Imphal, India            Date of publication: 26 March 2013 (online & print)

 

Manuscript details: Ms # o3277 | Received 30 July 2012 | Final received 14 March 2013 | Finally accepted 15 March 2013

 

Citation: Raghavan, R., J. Tharian, A. Ali, S. Jadhav & N. Dahanukar (2013). Balitora jalpalli, a new species of stone loach (Teleostei: Cypriniformes: Balitoridae) from Silent Valley, southern Western Ghats, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 5(5): 3921–3934; doi:10.11609/JoTT.o3277.3921-34.

 

Copyright: © Raghavan et al. 2013. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. JoTT allows unrestricted use of this article in any medium, reproduction and distribution by providing adequate credit to the authors and the source of publication.

 

Funding: The study was funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) Western Ghats Small Grant program through the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), Bengaluru, India.

 

Competing interests: The authors declare no competing interests.

 

Author contributions: JT collected the specimens. RR, AA, SJ and ND carried out the analysis. RR and ND wrote the text. RR is the Principal Investigator of the project from which the data originated.

 

Acknowledgements:  The authors thank Kishore Pawar for suggesting the specific name; Fibin Baby, Prasobh N and Rateesh for their help in the field; Benno Pereira and Francy Kakkassery for the facilities provided, and Sanjay Molur for his encouragements and help. The authors also thank two anonymous reviewers, and the subject editor for his critical comments which greatly improved the manuscript. SJ and ND thank the Director ZSI, Kolkata and Dr. R.M. Sharma, Officer in Charge, ZSI Regional Center, Pune for their help and support. RR thanks Ralf Britz, Natural History Museum, London for help with relevant literature. Field work was conducted with official permits from the Kerala State Forest and Wildlife Department (WL12-8550/2009).

 

Author details: RAJEEV RAGHAVAN is interested in interdisciplinary research focused on generating information and developing methods to support conservation decision-making, especially in freshwater ecosystems. JOSIN THARIAN is interested in research that addresses the application of the principles of systematic conservation planning in freshwater ecosystems. ANVAR ALI is interested in taxonomy and systematics of freshwater fishes of the Western Ghats. SRIKANTH JADHAV is Scientist at Zoological Survey of India, Western Regional Centre, Pune. He works on ecology, taxonomy and distribution patterns of freshwater fishes. NEELESH DAHANUKAR works in ecology and evolution with an emphasis on mathematical and statistical analysis. He is also interested in taxonomy, distribution patterns and molecular phylogeny of freshwater fishes.

 

The publication of this article is supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), a joint initiative of l’Agence Franćaise de Développement, Conservation International, the European Commission, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank.

 

 

 

Abstract: A new species of stone loach (Cypriniformes: Balitoridae), Balitora jalpalli, is described from Kunthi tributary of Bharatapuzha River located inside Silent Valley National Park in the southern Western Ghats of Kerala, India. It can be distinguished from known Indian species of Balitora by five major characters: head length, caudal peduncle depth, maximum head width and difference in number and pattern of bands on the dorsal side. The new species is distinct in having two unbranched and 8–9 branched ventral fin rays, nine unbranched and 10–11 branched pectoral fin rays and 66 lateral line scales, a caudal peduncle length to depth ratio of 2.3–2.7, anal fin to anus distance 3.3–4.7 % SL, least depth of caudal peduncle 6.3–6.7 % SL, length of caudal peduncle 15.4–17.2 % SL, length of upper caudal lobe 22.1–22.8 % SL, maximum head width 67.9–74.1 % HL, eye diameter 12.1–14.2 % HL, and gape 31.3–31.5 % HL.

 

Keywords: Bharatapuzha, freshwater fish, Kerala, new species.

 

 

For figures, images, tables -- click here

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Stone loaches of the genus Balitora Gray, 1830 are characterized by a strongly depressed body; ventrally flattened head and abdomen; inferior mouth, arched, jaws covered with horny sheath; papillated lips; gill-opening extending on the ventral surface of head; two to three simple pelvic rays, 8–10 simple pectoral rays; and paired fins ventrally placed (Kottelat 1988).  They are distributed in the fast flowing mountain streams of South Asia and Indochina from Pakistan in the West to Hainan Islands in the East (Kottelat 1988; Kottelat & Chu 1988; Conway & Mayden 2010).  They comprise 11 or 12 valid species (Kottelat 2012) of which four species, Balitora burmanica, B. brucei, B. laticauda and B. mysorensis are known to occur in India (Vishwanath et al. 2007; Bhoite et al. 2012; Kottelat 2012). While B. brucei is known from the Ganga-Brahmaputra basin, B. burmanica occurs in the Salween drainage in Myanmar (Kottelat 2012) and Chindwin basin in Manipur, India (Vishwanath et al. 2007), B. laticauda in the Krishna drainage of northern Western Ghats and B. mysorensis in the Cauvery drainage and some west flowing rivers of southern Western Ghats (Ali & Raghavan 2011; Bhoite et al. 2012).

Fieldwork in the Kunthi tributary of Bharatapuzha River inside the Silent Valley National Park, Kerala (part of the Western Ghats Hotspot) led to the collection of specimens of a Balitora which differed from its congeners.  This species is described herein as Balitora jalpalli sp. nov.

 

 

MATERIALS AND METHODS

 

Counts and measurements generally follow Kottelat (1988) and Conway & Mayden (2010).  Measurements were taken point to point using dial calipers to the nearest 0.1mm.  Subunits of the body are presented as percent of standard length (SL), and those of the head, as percent of head length (HL). Values for the holotype are marked with an asterisk (*) and values in parentheses are ranges. If there is no variation in a character the values are not marked with an asterisk.  All pored lateral line scales were counted. Holotype of Balitora jalpalli is deposited in the Zoological Survey of India, Western Regional Center (ZSI-WRC), Pune, one paratype each in the museum of the Conservation Research Group, St. Albert’s College (CRG-SAC), Kochi, Kerala, and museum collection of Wildlife Information Liaison Development (WILD), Coimbatore, India.

Government (Kerala State Department of Forest and Wildlife) regulations on scientific collections inside protected areas restricted the number of individuals that could be collected to only three specimens of the new species.

Data from Kottelat (1998) for Balitora annamitica and B. meridionalis, from Conway & Mayden (2010) for B. eddsi, Chen et al. (2005) for B. nantingensis, Liu et al. (2012) for Balitora ludongensis and B. longibarbata, and Zheng (1980) for B. lancangjiangensis were used for comparison.  Since the holotype of B. mysorensis (ZSI Kolkata F13512/1) is not in good condition, information on the morphometry of the holotype was taken from the type description by Hora (1941).  Additional data on B. mysorensis were obtained from two museum specimens collected near Shivasamudra, the type locality and one comparative material collected from an upper tributary of the Cauvery (please see section on comparative materials).

We performed MANOVA/CVA to differentiate the various Balitora species of the Indian subcontinent (Huberty & Olejnik 2006).  Multivariate normality of the data was checked using Doornik & Hansen (2008) omnibus and Pillay’s trace statistics was performed to find the significant difference between the clusters (Harris 2001).  To predict the species using morphometric characters, we constructed decision tree (regression tree) using exhaustive CHAID (Chi-squared Automatic Interaction Detection) algorithm. At each step, CHAID chooses the independent (predictor) variable that has the strongest interaction with the dependent variable. Categories of each predictor are merged if they are not significantly different with respect to the dependent variable (Kass 1980). Statistical analysis was performed in PAST (Hammer et al. 2001) and Tanagra (Rakotomalala 2005).

 

 

RESULTS

 

Balitora jalpalli sp. nov.

(Images 1, 2, 3)

urn:lsid:zoobank.org:act:71D422F3-935D-48AD-AAB9-B12A2C38AD2C

 

 

Material examinded

Holotype: ZSI-WRC P/3156, 29.v.2010, 54.2mm SL, Valleparathodu, near Poochipara, Silent Valley National Park (76026’11’’E & 11006’47’’N; 924m), Palakkad District, Kerala, India, coll. Josin Tharian.

Paratypes: 29.v.2010, 1 ex, 61.7mm SL, same data as holotype, CRG-SAC 2012.6.1; 29.5.2010, 1 ex, 58.1mm SL, same data as holotype, WILD-12-PIS-025.

 

Diagnosis

Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. can be distinguished from all known species in the genus Balitora based on a combination of characters including ii8-9 ventral fin rays, ix10-11 pectoral fin rays, 66 lateral line scales, nine dark blotches on the dorsal side, caudal peduncle length to caudal peduncle depth ratio (2.3–2.7), anal fin to anus distance (3.3–4.7% SL), least depth of caudal peduncle (6.3–6.7% SL), length of caudal peduncle (15.4–17.2% SL), length of upper caudal lobe (22.1–22.8% SL), maximum head width (67.9–74.1% HL), eye diameter (12.1–14.2% HL), and gape (31.3–31.5% HL).

Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. differs from its most closely related species B. mysorensis in having a shorter anal fin to anus distance (3.3–4.7% SL vs. 6.9–8.5% SL), deeper caudal peduncle (6.3–6.7% SL vs. 5.1–5.4% SL), longer anal fin base (7.2–7.9% SL vs. 6.2–6.4% SL), wider gape of mouth (31.3–31.5% HL vs. 18.9–20.6% HL), lower caudal peduncle length to depth ratio (2.3–2.7 vs. 3.0–3.3), more number of dark blotches (9 vs. 7) on the dorsal side where the posterior dorsal blotches in B. jalpalli sp. nov. are much wider than the anterior ones as opposed to more or less equally broad dorsal blotches in B. mysorensis, and rounded head in B. jalpalli sp. nov. as compared to triangular head in B. mysorensis (see discussion for more details).

 

Description

Biometric data are provided in Table 1.  General body shape as in Image 1 and details of head as in Image 2.  Appendix A provides detailed raw morphometry of the type series.

Head depressed, longer than broad, with tubercles, more prominent on lateral side.  Tubercles prominent on cheeks, snout, lateral and ventral surface of head up to base of pectoral fin, a distinct row on dorsal margin of orbit.  Eyes small, dorso–laterally positioned, not visible from underside of head, closer to operculum than to snout. Snout oblique, rounded.  A skin flap divides nares.  Mouth inferior, a deep groove between rostral fold and upper lip.  Gape of mouth about half of head width at nares.  Barbels three pairs, two rostral; outer rostral barbels slightly longer than inner ones; one pair of maxillary barbels, one each at both angle of mouth.  Upper lip encircled by two rows of uneven papillae; first row having 8* small papillae positioned continuously end to end, second row having 9* large papillae positioned discontinuously with wide interspaces. Lower lip with 9* large papillae, two in the middle elongated. Gill opening extending from level of posterior border of eye to mid-point of pectoral-fin base.

Body depressed before dorsal fin origin, compressed posterior to dorsal fin; dorsal profile of body convex, shows rapid increase from snout to nostril, becomes flattened till nape, increases gradually till origin of dorsal fin, decreases gradually till end of caudal peduncle. Lateral line complete, slightly curved towards dorsal surface at the posterior border of pectoral fin. Lateral line scales 64–66*.  Ventral profile flat up to anal fin origin, and gradually descends till the end of the caudal peduncle.  Chest without scales.  Body deepest at dorsal fin origin.  Body wider than its depth at both dorsal fin origin and anus.

Dorsal fin origin exactly above pelvic fin origin, closer to tip of snout than to caudal fin base; its outer margin straight.  Paired fins horizontally placed.  Pectoral fin elongated, longer than head, its origin slightly behind posterior border of eye, its anterior margin thickened and curved, posterior profile straight with large gap between posterior border and pelvic fin origin; with ix* (viii–ix) simple rays and 10* (10–11) branched rays.  Eight anterior simple rays of pectoral fin with thick cushion-like longitudinal pads of muscle on the ventral surface.  Pelvic fin equal to or slightly shorter than head; fin origin closer to snout tip than caudal peduncle end; with three simple and eight branched rays, last branched ray bifurcated at base and first three anterior rays plaited.  Anal fin with three simple and five branched rays with last branched ray bifurcating at base.  Caudal fin emarginate, lower lobe longer than upper, lowermost four principal caudal rays tightly associated.  Caudal peduncle slender, length 2.3–2.7 times its depth.

Maximum size of Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. is 61.7mm SL.

 

Coloration

In life (Image 3): Yellowish-brown on back with nine saddle shaped dark brown blotches surrounded by yellowish-brown area, behind occiput to base of caudal fin (3 predorsal, 2 sub-dorsal and 4 post-dorsal).  Sub-dorsal and post-dorsal blotches spread sideways beyond lateral line.  Flanks yellowish-brown, with two rows of black blotches below lateral line, commencing just beneath posterior margin of orbit.  Both paired and unpaired fins yellowish-brown with orange reddish tinge along the distal borders.  Ventral surface pale yellow to white.  Mid lateral row of very irregular dark brown spots between opercle and middle of caudal fin base.  Small irregular dark brown blotches scattered randomly on lateral surface of body below lateral line.  Parts of head grayish-brown above, pale yellow below; with irregular brown patches on dorsal surface.  Dorsal side of pectoral fin base with 3–4 dark brown spots.  Dorsal and anal fins with light brown markings on centre of fin rays which appear as oblique band.  Pectoral and pelvic fins with dark brown markings extending from its base to middle of fin rays, hyaline distally.  Caudal fin with two wavy dark vertical markings which extends to lower lobe of caudal fin.

In preservative (Image 1) dorsal and lateral sides of the body become dark brown and ventral side turns to creamy white; other parts of the body similar to coloration in life.

 

Etymology

Specific name “jalpalli” is derived from the Sanskrit words “jal” meaning ‘water’ and “palli” meaning ‘small lizard’. “Jalpalli” (literally ‘water lizard’) refers to the lizard like appearance of the fish, and its habit of clinging to the rocks in fast flowing streams.  The specific name is  a noun in apposition.

 

Distribution

Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. is currently known only from the type locality in Valleparathodu, near Poochippara, in the Kunthipuzha, tributary of Bharatapuzha River inside Silent Valley National Park, Kerala, India (Image 4).

 

Habitat

The type locality in Valleparathodu, is a high altitude stream (3–4 m width and 30–50 cm depth) with riffle-pool habitat (Image 5), where the co-occurring species were Bhavania australis, Homaloptera pillai, Mesonoemacheilus remadevii and Garra menoni.

 

Common name

We suggest ‘Silent Valley Stone Loach’ as common name for this species.

 

Statistical analysis

Five species, Balitora jalpalli sp. nov., B. laticauda, B. mysorensis, B. brucei and B. burmanica, for which the morphometric data were collected by the authors, were used for statistical analysis.  Only a subset of size-adjusted characters, viz., head length, body depth at dorsal fin origin, depth of caudal peduncle, length of caudal peduncle, body width at dorsal fin origin, length of pelvic fin, length of pectoral fin, maximum head depth, snout length, maximum head width, eye diameter and interorbital width, could be used as data for only these characters were available for all comparative material.  The null hypothesis that the data are normally distributed was not rejected (Doornik and Hansen omnibus, Ep=32.63, P=0.1121) indicating that the data showed multivariate normality. MANOVA/CVA of the data (Fig. 1) showed that the five species formed separate clusters (Pillai trace = 3.502, F28,48 = 3.247, P = 0.005325).  CHAID analysis revealed that these five species can be separated from each other based on head length, caudal peduncle depth, maximum head width and body depth at dorsal fin origin (Fig. 2).

 

 

DISCUSSION

 

Balitora is currently represented by 11 or 12 species (see Kottelat 2012).  Among the Indian species, Balitora brucei Gray, 1830 is distributed in the north and north-east, B. mysorensis Hora, 1941 in the Cauvery River system and B. laticauda Bhoite et al., 2012 in the Krishna River system.  Other species in this genus B. eddsi Conway & Mayden, 2010 is known from Nepal, B. burmanica Hora, 1932 from Myanmar, B. annamitica Kottelat, 1988 from Cambodia, B. meridionalis Kottelat, 1988 from Thailand.  Balitora lancangjiangensis (Zheng, 1980), B. ludongensis Liu & Chen, 2012, B. nantingensis Chen et al., 2005 from China.  Substantial differences between all the species and Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. justify the erection of the new taxa.

Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. differs from its geographically most closely related species B. mysorensis in having a longer pre-dorsal length (46.5–47.7 % SL vs. 44.2–44.7 % SL), longer ventral to anus distance (26.7–28 % SL vs. 24.4–25.5 % SL), shorter anal fin to anus distance (3.3–4.7 % SL vs. 6.9–9.5 % SL), deeper caudal peduncle (6.3–6.7 % SL vs. 5.1–5.4 % SL), longer upper caudal lobe (22.1–22.8 % SL vs. 17.2–19.6 % SL), longer anal fin base (7.2–7.9 % SL vs. 6.2–6.4 % SL), wider gape of mouth (31.3–31.5 % HL vs. 18.9–20.6 % HL), lower head depth at eye (32.6–35.7 % HL vs. 39–40.5 % HL) and lower caudal peduncle length to depth ratio (2.3–2.7 vs. 3.0–3.3).  It also possesses more number of dark blotches (9 vs. 7) on the dorsal side.  The posterior dorsal blotches in B. jalpalli sp. nov. are much wider than the anterior ones (Image 3b) as opposed to more or less equally broad dorsal blotches in B. mysorensis.  Further, both B. jalpalli sp. nov. and B. mysorensis form distinct clusters in MANOVA/CVA (Fig. 1).  The most prominent morphometric character that separates B. jalpalli sp. nov. from B. mysorensis is the depth of caudal peduncle (Fig. 2) and the meristics is the lesser number of lateral line scales (Table 1).  Another prominent character that separates B. jalpalli sp. nov. from B. mysorensis is more rounded head in B. jalpalli as compared to more triangular head in B. mysorensis (Image 6).  Apart from these morphological differences, it is essential to note that B. jalpalli sp. nov. is recorded from west flowing river system while B. mysorensis is known from east flowing river system of the Western Ghats.  The records of B. mysorensis from the West flowing rivers of the Western Ghats are not backed by voucher specimens.  We strongly believe that these records are erroneous and may represent additional undescribed species within this genus.

Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. differs from the other peninsular Indian species B. laticauda based on a combination of characters including a shorter anal fin to anus distance (3.3–4.7 % SL vs. 5.7–7.8 % SL), lesser body depth at anal fin (7.9–8.5 % SL vs. 9.1–11.4 % SL), lesser body width at anal fin (7.6–8.4 % SL vs. 8.7–12.0 % SL), longer upper caudal lobe (22.1–22.8 % SL vs. 15.7–21.0 % SL), longer lower caudal lobe (24.7–26.6 % SL vs. 16.1–24.3% SL) wider gape of mouth (31.3–31.5 % HL vs. 16.9–27.1 % HL) and lesser head width (67.9–74.1 % HL vs. 77.7–93.3 % HL).  Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. possesses lesser number of dorsal blotches (9 vs. 10) compared to B. laticauda.  The posterior dorsal blotches in B. jalpalli sp. nov. are much wider than the posterior ones as opposed to more or less equally broad dorsal blotches in B. laticauda.  Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. and B. laticauda form distinct clusters in MANOVA/CVA (Fig. 1).  The most prominent character that separates B. jalpalli sp. nov. from B. laticauda is the maximum head width (Fig. 2).

Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. can be further differentiated from the north and northeastern Indian species B. brucei, with the most prominent character of longer head (Fig. 2) and other combination of characters including higher maximum head depth (8.35–9.56 % SL vs. 6.6–8.0 % SL), higher depth of caudal peduncle (6.3–6.7% SL vs. 5.1–5.8 % SL), narrower maximum head width (14.8–16.2 %SL vs. 17.2–20.5 %SL), longer upper caudal lobe (22.1–22.8 % SL vs. 16.1–19.3 % SL), shorter median caudal rays (10.3–14.8 % SL vs. 15.6–21.1 % SL), longer height of anal fin (13.6–15.1 % SL vs. 9.7–12.7 % SL) and lesser caudal peduncle length to depth ratio (2.3–2.7 vs. 3.2–4.0).

Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. differs from B. burmanica found in the  Irrawady, Tennasserim and Salween basins in Myanmar and the Chindwin basin in Manipur, based on longer upper caudal lobe (22.1–22.8 % SL vs. 17.7–20.2 % SL), lower caudal peduncle length to depth ratio (2.3–2.7 vs. 3.0–4.0) and more lateral line scales (66 vs 62–65).  Further, both B. jalpalli sp. nov. and B. burmanica form distinct clusters in MANOVA/CVA (Fig. 1), and can be distinguished from each other based on the head length (Fig. 2).

Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. differs from B. eddsi found in the Karnali river drainage in south-western Nepal, based on characters including higher preanal length (74.1–78.2 % SL vs. 68.5–70.1 % SL), higher depth of caudal peduncle (6.3–6.7 % SL vs. 5.4–5.7 % SL), smaller length of caudal peduncle (15.4–17.2 % SL vs. 22.0–23.2 % SL), higher body width at dorsal (15.8–17.8 % SL vs. 11.4–12.0 % SL), higher height of dorsal fin (19.1–19.9 % SL vs. 16.8–17.9 % SL), higher length of pelvic fin (21.2–28.1 % SL vs. 12.8–14 % SL), higher length of pectoral fin (24.2–28.1 % SL vs. 19.6–21.7 % SL) and lower caudal peduncle length to depth ratio (2.3–2.7 vs. 4.1–4.2).

Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. differs from B. annamitica found in the Mekong basin, based on characters including lesser body depth at dorsal (9.8–12.1 % SL vs. 13.0–13.6 % SL), lesser head width (14.8–16.2 % SL vs. 17.1–18.5 % SL), higher caudal peduncle length to depth ratio (2.3–2.7 vs. 1.9–2.2) and more number of lateral line scales (66 vs. 61–62). Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. differs from B. meridionalis, a species found in the Chan River basin of northern Thailand, based on lesser pre anus length (66.2–72.8 % SL vs. 73.2–75.2 % SL), lesser head width (14.8–16.2 % SL vs. 17.4–18.2 % SL), lesser length of median caudal rays (10.3–14.8 % SL vs. 15.5–16.4 % SL) and more number of lateral line scales (66 vs. 62–64).

Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. has a number of morphological characters that differentiates it from the Chinese species of Balitora.  Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. from B. kwangsiensis in having smaller eye (12.1–14.2 % HL vs. 19.7–21.4 % HL), lower head depth to head width ratio in proportion to HL (43.4–51.4 % vs. 57.5–64.9 %), lower head width to body width ratio in proportion to HL (68.3–79.1 % vs. 88.9–117.8 %) and lower body depth to body width ratio in proportion to HL (50.6–54.1 % vs. 82.3–89.0 %).  Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. from B. lancangjiangensis with higher body length to body depth ratio (8.3–10.2 vs. 5.9–6.7), higher head length to head depth ratio (2.3–2.6 vs. 1.7–2.0) and higher head length to eye diameter ratio (12.0–14.2 % HL vs. 17.5–20.0 % HL). Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. differs from B. longibarbata with less number of lateral line scales (66 vs. 74–76), lesser head width (67.9–74.1 % HL vs. 89.2–101.9 % HL), lower head width to body width ratio (68.3–79.1 % HL vs. 86.4–97.4 %HL) and lower body depth to body width ratio (50.6–54.1 % HL vs. 71.8–90.3 % HL). Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. can be distinguished from B. ludongensis based on lower body depth at dorsal (9.8–12.1 % SL vs. 15.0–19.5 % SL), lower maximum head depth (38.6–43.6 % HL vs. 51.2–67.2 % HL), lower head depth to head width ratio (43.4–51.4 % HL vs. 64.3–78 % HL) and lower body depth to body width ratio (50.6–54.1 % HL vs. 80.7–96.4 % HL).  Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. differs from B. nantingensis in characters including smaller eye (12.1–14.2 % HL vs. 15.6–25.0 % HL), shorter anal fin length (32.7–36.2 % HL vs. 52.6–71.4 % HL) and more number of lateral line scales (66 vs. 59–64).  Balitora jalpalli sp. nov. differs from B. nujiangensis in a most prominent character that the pectoral fins does not surpass pelvic fin base.

Other than B. jalpalli sp. nov., two other species of Balitora have been recorded from the rivers of Kerala.  While B. mysorensis has been recorded from the rivers Kabini (Gopi 2000; Easa & Shaji 2003), Bhavani (Easa & Basha 1995; Easa & Shaji 2003; Kurup et al. 2004), Bharathapuzha (Kurup et al. 2004), Periyar (Menon 1987) and Achankovil (Kurup & Radhakrishnan 2006), there is also a record of B. brucei from the Achankovil River (Kurup et al. 2004).  We however believe that this record of B. brucei by Kurup et al. (2004) is erroneous, as the same authors have listed B. mysorensis from Achankovil but not B. brucei, in various papers published two years later (Euphrasia et al. 2006; Kurup & Radhakrishnan 2006).  There are also no voucher specimens available to validate and verify this record.  As mentioned earlier, we believe that B. mysorensis is restricted in distribution to the east flowing Cauvery drainage and records from the west flowing rivers may comprise of yet to be described species.

The Silent Valley National Park from where B. jalpalli sp. nov. was collected is drained by two river systems, the west flowing Bharatapuzha and the east flowing Bhavani.  There is no record till date of any species of Balitora collected from the west flowing streams inside Silent Valley.  While Kurup et al. (2004) has listed B. mysorensis as occurring in river Bharatapuzha, the collection site was mentioned as Mannarkad, which is located well outside the National Park limits.  Easa & Basha (1995), Easa & Shaji (2003) and Kurup et al. (2004) mention collecting B. mysorensis from the east flowing Bhavani River.  Easa & Basha (1995) recorded B. mysorensis from two sites in Bhavani River, Sinkaparathodu and Keralamedu.  In their field guide to the fishes of Kerala, Easa & Shaji (2003; p. 59–60) mention that the B. mysorensis they collected from Bhavani and Kabini rivers has 64–65 scales on the lateral line.  Measurements of the holotype and topotypic material of B. mysorensis (see Table 1) indicates that the species has a lateral line scale count of 68–69.  In addition, Easa & Shaji (2003) mention that the specimens of B. mysorensis they collected have six blotches along the dorsum and the lateral line (vs. seven in the holotype and topotypes of B. mysorensis).  As there is no information stating whether voucher specimens pertaining to the above studies (Easa & Basha 1995; Easa & Shaji 2003; Kurup et al. 2004) are available in registered collections, it is difficult to validate these records.  Also, in spite of detailed field surveys both in the Bharatapuzha and Bhavani rivers including the locations surveyed by previous workers, we did not encounter any species of Balitora other than those observed in Valleparathodu, the type locality of B. jalpalli sp. nov.

Linnean shortfall (most species are still not formally described), especially in biodiversity hotspots, hinder the progress in conservation planning (Bini et al. 2006).  This is especially true regarding the Western Ghats of India, which harbor a rich diversity of freshwater fishes, many of which are endemic to this zoogeographical region (Dahanukar et al. 2004, 2011).  On the one hand while new species are still being described from the Western Ghats (Krishnakumar et al. 2011; Bhoite et al. 2012; Britz et al. 2012a,b,c), on the other, the rich diversity of freshwater fishes in this region is under threat due to several anthropogenic stressors (Dahanukar et al. 2011).  The description of one more species of freshwater fish from the Western Ghats reiterate our views that the ichthyofauna of the region continues to be poorly known and is in need of increased exploratory surveys and associated taxonomic research (Dahanukar et al. 2011; Raghavan et al. 2012).

 

Comparative material

Balitora mysorensis: Holotype: ZSI Kolkata F13512/1, Sivasamudram (approx. 12.2940N & 77.1680E, 530m), Mysore, India, B.S. Bhimachar; CRG-SAC 2012.51.01, 1 ex., Siruvani, Palakkad (10.9670N & 76.6410E, 911m), Kerala, India, Anvar Ali et al.; ZSI-WRC P/3056, 2 ex, Shivasamudra falls near Tirumakudalu Narasipura (12.2190N & 76.9530E), Mysore District, Karnataka, India, R. Kumar.

Balitora laticauda: Holotype: ZSI-WRC P/2848, Venegaon Village near Krishna River bridge (17.4990N & 74.1180E, 590m), Satara District, Maharashtra, India, Sunil Bhoite; Paratypes: ZSI Pune P/2849–2850, 2 ex, Venegaon Village near Krishna River bridge (17.4990N & 74.1180E, 590m), Satara District, Maharashtra, India, Sunil Bhoite; ZSI Pune P/2851, 2 exs, Nagthane village on Urmodi River (17.5680N & 74.0530E, 606m), Satara District, Maharashtra State, India, Sunil Bhoite; WILD-12-PIS-019, 1 ex, Venegaon village near Krishna River bridge (17.4990N & 74.1180E, 590m), Satara District, Maharashtra, India, Sunil Bhoite. ZSI Pune P/3058, 1 ex, Nagthane village on Urmodi River (17.5680N & 74.0530E,  606m), Satara District, Maharashtra State, India, Sunil Bhoite; ZSI Pune P/3057, 2 ex, Khodashi Village below Khodshi Dam (17.3080N & 74.1670E, 562m), Krishna River, in Satara District, Maharashtra State, India, Madhavi Chavan.

Balitora brucei: ZSI Kolkata F11092/1, 1 ex, Nong-piomg stream below Cherrapunji (approx. 25.2980N & 91.6990E, 1436m), Khasi Hills, Assam, S.L. Hora; ZSI-WRC P/2669, 1 ex, Jim Corbet National Park (approx. 29.5760N & 78.8190E, 560m), Uttarakhand, S. Chikane; Additional information from Kottelat (1988).

Balitora burmanica: Syntypes, ZSI Kolkata F11034/1, 2 exs, Meekalan (approx. 16.1170N & 98.4180E, 136m), Myanmar, specimens donated by Genoa Museum; Additional information from Kottelat (1988).

 

 

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