Hot pink swamp eel discovered in Indian rainforest

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  • Scientists from London’s Natural History Museum discovered a previously unknown species of swamp eel in the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, India.
  • The biologists found only a single specimen living in mud near a rainforest stream.
  • Like other swamp eels, Monopterus rongsaw lives terrestrially, is blind, and has sharp teeth.
  • There are some 25 species are known to science worldwide.

Scientists searching for snake-like amphibians discovered a new species of swamp eel living in the rainforest of northeastern India.

According to a paper published in the journal of Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters, biologists from London’s Natural History Museum found the fish species while looking for legless amphibians known as caecilians among damp soils near a freshwater stream in the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya.

The swamp eel’s rainforest habitat. Photo © Rachunliu G Kamei

“We were digging all day every day for caecilians in the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, in the north-east of India, when I chanced upon this fish,” said Rachunliu G Kamei in a press release. “This is the only specimen of the species, as we couldn’t find any more.”

Monopterus rongsaw is blind and lacks pigmentation, giving it a “hot pink” appearance due to its dense network of blood vessels just below its skin. The species also has tiny sharp teeth.

Like other swamp eels, Monopterus rongsaw lives terrestrially in mud and under leaf litter rather than in water, breathing through the lining of their mouth rather than conventional gills.

“All swamp eels rely on breathing air,” explained study co-author Ralf Britz, also of the Natural History Museum, via a statement. “Their gill filaments – which most fishes use for oxygen exchange – are almost gone entirely. Instead the covering of the mouth cavity is highly vascularized with lots of blood vessels. These serve as accessory gills.”

Monopterus rongsaw, a swamp eel from India. Photo © Rachunliu G Kamei
Monopterus rongsaw, a swamp eel from India. Photo © Rachunliu G Kamei

Swamp eels are found widely across the tropics, but only 25 species are known to science due to their reclusive nature.

Citation

  • Ralf Britz, Dan Sykes, David J. Gower and Rachunliu G. Kamei. Monopterus rongsaw, a new species of hypogean swamp eel from the Khasi Hills in Northeast India (Teleostei: Synbranchiformes: Synbranchidae). Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters. DOI: 10.23788/IEF-1086

This story first appeared on Mongabay

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