A new species of eel has been discovered along the coast of Digha in West Bengal’s Purba Medinipur district by scientists of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI).

The species has been named Gymnothorax mishrai. It is 32.4 cm long, brown in colour and is devoid of any pattern on its body. The species is distinguished by having the dorsal-fin origin before gill opening, jaw pores with brown rim. The new species is distinctly different from the other eight described species of this group. This species is also the first species of short brown unpatterned moray eel to be reported from India.

“This newly discovered eel is a marine species. The fish is also edible. The specimen was collected from fishing boats at a fish-landing centre located at Shankarpur, West Bengal,” Anil Mohapatra, scientist of the ZSI and at expert in marine fishes said.

Rare Discovery

According to Mr. Mohapatra, finding the new species is a rare and cherished discovery in India and specifically in West Bengal where there is a huge demand for both fresh water and marine fish.

This specimen of species was collected from fishing boats at a fish landing centre in Shankarpur at a depth of about twenty-two meters.

One feature which distinguishes this species from others of the genus Gymnothorax (moray eel) is the presence of 134 vertebral bones. As the number of vertebral bones is less than 150, this species is categorized among short, brown, patterned moray eels.

Eels are snake-like fishes with fins and gills, found mostly at bottom of rivers and seas. They live in the shallow waters of the ocean and burrow into sand, mud, or amongst rocks.India is home to about 150-200 species of the 800 species of eels found across the world.

Eels, a delicacy in Japan and other countries are part of the coastal diet in India as well.

“We are happy about this discovery that along with adding a new species to our biodiversity it will add to the natural food resources of the country,” ZSI director-in-charge Kailash Chandra said.

Mr. Mohapatra, David G. Smith and Dipanjan Ray, the scientists involved in the discovery have jointly published a paper in the journal Zootaxa regarding the discovery for which they have selected the common name Bengal moray eel.

The coastal area in West Bengal is rich in biodiversity. An edible species of marine fish, Haplogenys bengalensis, was discovered two years ago from the same area.

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About Ramya Naresh

Ramya is a homemaker who likes to live in harmony with Nature, believing that each form of life is a wonder in itself. She values living in the present and looks forward to each day in all its freshness. She is a Senior Writer with India's Endangered.

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