A checklist of fishes of Kerala, India


A. Bijukumar 1 & Rajeev Raghavan 2



1 Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries, University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala 695581, India

2 Center for Taxonomy of Aquatic Animals, Department of Fisheries Resource Management, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS), Kochi, Kerala 682506, India

2 Laboratory of Systematics, Ecology and Conservation, Zoo Outreach Organization (ZOO), Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu 641035, India

1 bijupuzhayoram@gmail.com (corresponding author), 2 rajeevraq@hotmail.com





doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.2004.7.13.8036-8080 | ZooBank: urn:lsid:zoobank.org:pub:624B60B8-E050-4C63-BEA4-85B67DEAEB75


Editor: Mewa Singh, University of Mysore, Mysuru, India. Date of publication: 17 November 2015 (online & print)


Manuscript details: Ms # o4308 | Received 11 May 2015 | Final received 23 September 2015 | Finally accepted 29 September 2015


Citation: Bijukumar, A. & R. Raghavan (2015). A checklist of fishes of Kerala, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 7(13): 80368080; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.2004.7.13.8036-8080


Copyright: © Bijukumar & Raghavan 2015. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International 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: Rajeev Raghavan thanks the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), Western Ghats Program and the Mohammed

Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund for funding various projects during which the data for the checklist was compiled.


Conflict of Interest: The authors declare no competing interests.


Acknowledgements: Rajeev Raghavan thanks Neelesh Dahanukar, J.D. Marcus Knight, Siby Philip, Anvar Ali and Unmesh Katwate for providing necessary help and suggestions during the compilation of this checklist.








Abstract: A checklist of the fishes of Kerala State is presented, along with their scientific and common names (English and Malayalam), endemism, IUCN Red List status, listing under different Schedules of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act and in the Appendices of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). Nine Hundred and five species of fishes are recorded from the inland and marine waters of Kerala comprising of 41 orders and 172 families. Close to 30% of the freshwater fish species found in Kerala are endemic to the State. Only 8% of the total fishes of Kerala are listed as threatened in the IUCN Red List, of which the majority are freshwater species. Several hundred fish species occurring in the marine waters of Kerala have not yet been assessed for their conservation status by IUCN.

Keywords: Brackishwater, fish, freshwater, Kerala, marine, species.






Fish diversity known from the fresh and marine waters of India constitutes 9.7% of the total number (~33,059 species) of fish species known from the world (Eschmeyer & Fong 2014). Of these, marine fishes alone account for 7.4%. An assessment of the ichthyodiversity of India recognizes an estimated 3,231 valid species of freshwater and marine fishes, of which the total diversity of marine species comprise 75.6% (2,443 species) (Gopi & Mishra 2015).

Despite over 200 years of exploration and research, the fish fauna of peninsular India and Kerala continue to be poorly known. Freshwater ichthyological research in Kerala started in the late 18th century with the description of Cirrhinus cirrhosus and Labeo fimbriatus by Bloch (1795) from the erstwhile Malabar, followed by the description of Wallago attu from the same region by Bloch & Schneider (1801). Over the next century (1800–1900), several naturalists including Georges Cuvier (1828–1831), Achilles Valenciennes (1840–1847), Thomas Jerdon (1849), Albert Günther (1864) and Francis Day (1865–1889) advanced the knowledge of freshwater fishes of erstwhile Malabar District and Cochin State. One of the earliest checklists of freshwater fishes of the region - On the fresh water fishes of southern India was published by Jerdon (1849), in which he gave an account of the fishes of Madras Presidency (including Malabar State).

Francis Day, a medical surgeon of the British army, who later turned to ichthyology, laid the foundation for fisheries research in Kerala. His book The Fishes of Malabar (Day 1865a) was the first comprehensive account on the diversity of fishes off the Kerala coast. He describes that “while staying at Cochin on the Malabar Coast of India, from 1859 to 1864, the annually increasing importance of its fisheries came most prominently to my notice. Desirous of ascertaining what species of fish were most abundant, and which were best adapted for different manufacturers, I was induced to make a collection of those procurable from the sea, estuaries or freshwaters, with notes on their habits and uses, to elucidate which, plain and coloured drawings of each species were made as soon as possible after the fish had been captured”. Francis Day subsequently published pioneering accounts on the fishes of the region including On the Fishes of Cochin, on the Malabar Coast of India (Day 1865b,c), On the Fishes of the Neilgherry Hills and Rivers around their Bases (Day 1867a) and On some Fishes from the Wynaad (Day 1867b).

The H.M.S. Challenger Expedition in the late sixties and seventies of the 19th century triggered interest in marine resource surveys in the Indian seas and recorded the occurrence of several marine fishes along the Kerala coast. Taxonomic investigations on deep-sea fishes of India began with the publications of A. Alcock, based on the samples collected during the voyage of Indian marine survey steamer H.M.S. Investigator (Alcock 1899); and the descriptions also include a few deep-sea fishes off the erstwhile Travancore State. In the 20th century, several ichthyologists compiled information on marine fish fauna of the Indian Ocean, including those in the western ocean, notable in this series being The Fishes of Indo-Australian Archipelago (Weber & de Beaufort, 1916–1936; de Beaufort 1940; de Beaufort & Chapman 1951).

The freshwater fishes of Travancore region remained poorly known until the checklists of Pillai (1929), Hora & Law (1941), Raj (1941) and Silas (1951) were published. During the last 50 years, several localized checklists and compilations confined to smaller regions such as a district, a protected area or a river system of Kerala have been published.

Until this day, very few comprehensive checklists (Chhapgar & Manakadan 2000; Gopi 2000; Kurup et al. 2004; Bijukumar et al. 2010) have been published on the fishes of Kerala State. Since the publication of the most recent comprehensive checklist (Kurup et al. 2004), around 20 new freshwater species have been described, in addition to revalidation of the species status of several others. There have also been many new genera and a new family of freshwater fish identified from Kerala during this period (2004–2014). The last one decade witnessed renewed interest in marine fish taxonomy, with many new species described from the Kerala coast and more records of deep-sea fishes from the country’s exclusive economic zone of India. Recent information compiled by Gopi & Mishra (2015) reveals that 2,443 species of marine fish are recognized from India, represented under 230 families and 927 genera; though state-wise species records and list of species were not mentioned.

The last two years has also witnessed an increasing trend of dubious ‘taxonomic’ practices creeping into the ichthyological literature of Kerala State thereby disrupting an otherwise renewed phase in freshwater fish taxonomy in the region (see Raghavan et al. 2014). For the purpose of the present checklist, we have not considered any description that has appeared in a ‘predatory journal’ in which the peer review is compromised (see Beall 2012, 2015; Raghavan et al. 2014). In this checklist, freshwater fishes are listed in brown colored font. The column marked EC (Ecosystem) denotes whether the habitat of the species is marine (M), freshwater (F) or primarily marine but secondary freshwater (S).





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