Northern glowlights

 Aquarium fish, Danios, Fish, Ichthyology, taxonomy, Travel  Kommentarer inaktiverade för Northern glowlights
Dec 242012
 
My kitchen window

My kitchen window

Winter in Sweden, and that means darkness, cold, and snow covering all and everything. No wonder every window is lit, day and night, with glowing stars, moons, snowflakes, menorahs, or the new fashion little reindeer or bears lit by led from inside. Without all those warming winter lights darkness would bend our backs, and we would get swept away by depression. Or maybe not.

Nevertheless, I would like to take this window view to remind myself of another northern glowlight, recently named Dano flagrans. It is a little fish from warmer waters. From where it hails, however,  you can actually view the snow of the eastern outcrops of the Himalayas. It is certainly the most septentrional of the Myanmar Danio, but rivalled, apparently defeated in northerliness by Danio dangila which occurs in the Brahmaputra basin in India up to the Dibru River. No other species of Danio reaches so far north.

Looking northeast from Putao

Looking norwest from Putao

The scientific history of Danio flagrans begins in 1988, when I, in the company of Ralf Britz and our guide Thein Win arrived in Putao, the northernmost major city in Myanmar. Putao is close to the Chinese and Indian borders, on hills forming the headwaters of the Mali Hka, major tributary of the Ayeyarwaddy River which then runs through Myanmar as one big muddy aorta. Up in the Mali Hka, however, the water is clear, at least in the dry season, not very deep, and the river beds paved with stones and rocks. The fish fauna of northern Myanmar mountain streams is little known. Transportation in the area is relatively complicated, and a lot remains to be done up there in terms of ichthyological exploration.

Mali Hka in Putao

Mali Hka in Putao

Back to our story, our little team was quartered in the military camp and we immediately set out to fish, having only two full days at disposal. The Mali Hka itself was too big for fishing, although alright for sightseeing, but around the regiment there were several small streams with low water and convenient for seine and handnets. The streams were shallow, the water was clear, rather cool, and fish were plenty. Here we found Badis pyema which was promptly described already in 2002, and Puntius tiantian in 2005, but other fish have lasted longer to be worked up. Walking along one of the streams, we switched direction to follow a tickle of water, almost no water, coming down the left bank hill, and in there were little skittish fish, almost invisible against the beige earth and seen only as moving shadows. A number of them, certainly Danio choprae – such was the field identification – came into formalin and one made it to a tube of alcohol. Neither Ralf nor I was into danios at the time, so the fish we just hoped would be useful for Fang, and  we went on happily, catching Badis pyema and similar fish that had more of our attention those days.

Fresh collected northern glowlight danio, Putao 1998

Fresh collected northern glowlight danio, Putao 1998

One of the Putao danios was photographed but this was in times of film photography, with no immediate quality check, and much is to be regretted by the quality of the shot. Publishable it is not, but here it can be showed off as the first image ever taken of a Danio flagrans. The alcohol specimen was sequenced and appeared in a phylogenetic tree as Danio choprae (Fang et al., 2009), and by that time noone had looked at it closely (we had other specimens, true D. choprae for the morphological data). Time passed on. This was one species that Fang never worked on, but which obviously was somewhat different from the other samples of D. choprae, and I decided to give it a go in the Spring of 2012. The manuscript was already in hand as I again met Ralf in Belgium and we spoke about past achievements and plans for the future. As he had more of the danios from Putao from a later trip, and more D. choprae, he insisted that I include this material, and so it was. The paper had to be done from almost scratch but Ralf’s material certainly improved a lot on the description and conclusions. The description of Danio flagrans, the northern glowlight danio, eventually appeared in late 2012, 14 years after its discovery (Kullander, 2012). Incidentally, it is my first own danio paper, and it was fun to do. It was enjoyable in particular, because Danio flagrans and its sister species Danio choprae do not differ only in colour (in fact they are very similar in colours), but also present some very solid morphometric and meristic differences. I am otherwise much too used to cichlid species that differ by just some pigment spot. Danio flagrans has a shorter anal fin, with less fin-rays, and longer caudal peduncle compared to Danio choprae. Perhaps this relates to their environment. Danio choprae lives more to the south, near Myitkyina, and in warmer habitats; Danio flagrans in cool hillstreams. Beware that these species may not be correctly identified in the shops. Danio choprae, the glowlight danio may appear in the market as northern glowlights, a more expensive fish. I know, three of the false northerns are swimming in a tank in my garage. These changelings are beautiful fish decorated with orange stripes. Unfortunately, they never stay still, but are constantly on the move, and they move fast, so a good view of them remains an illusion of expectation. This brings me, by association, to the conclusion of this post: Besides lights in the windows, there is one more resource to overcome winter gloom. An aquarium with beautiful fishes (all fish are beautiful). Always something to see, to learn, to enjoy.

aquarium800

References

Fang, F., M. Norén, T.Y. Liao, M. Källersjö & S.O. Kullander. 2009. Molecular phylogenetic interrelationships of the South Asian cyprinid genera Danio, Devario and Microrasbora (Teleostei, Cyprinidae, Danioninae). Zoologica Scripta, 38: 237-256.

Kullander, S.O. 2012. Description of Danio flagrans, and redescription of D. choprae, two closely related species from the Ayeyarwaddy River drainage in northern Myanmar (Teleostei: Cyprinidae). Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 23: 245-262. Open Access PDF from Verlag Dr. Friedrich Pfeil.

Kullander, S.O. & R. Britz. 2002. Revision of the family Badidae (Teleostei: Perciformes), with description of a new genus and ten new species. Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters, 13: 295-372.

Kullander, S.O. & F. Fang. 2005. Two new species of Puntius from northern Myanmar (Teleostei: Cyprinidae). Copeia, 2005: 290-302. Open Access PDF.

Photos: Sven O Kullander, CC-BY-NC

Day 1, 2011

 Books, Cichlids, Danios, Fish, meetings  Kommentarer inaktiverade för Day 1, 2011
Jan 012011
 

As the snow whirls around and the cold fills up the atmosphere, the new year brings a welcome day off to be taken care of. Dough is rising and breakfast bread will be served in an hour or so. Family is sleeping, stoned by the unusual late hours to sit through the paradox of a year and decade shift without anything really happening. Only computers worldwide automatically shifting display date, steadfast from Australia westwards. It takes 24 hours to shift from one day to another, or does it?

The past autumn proved hectic to the limit of sustainability and blogging plummeted, so there is something to be caught up on.  Most of last year wasn’t in the plus column, however, so there is a lot to be expected from this one. The highlights of the past twelve months that come to mind spontaneously were:

The FishBase Symposium 2010 in Stockholm, October 18, featuring a fantastic series of talks by highly successful, competent and enthusiastic personality scientists covering all of what it takes to be a fish systematist, not least the field work and the need for specimens, not only tissue samples to do systematics, Melanie Stiassny, Maurice Kottelat, Tan Heok Hui, Richard Pyle, Jörg Freyhof, Anthony Gill, moderated by one more star, Ralf Britz. The audicence enjoyed the show tremendeously, and so did I. There is a report to download, most of it in Swedish, but there is always Google Translate.

Te Yu Liao’s PhD dissertation defence with Paul Skelton as opponent, 18 November. Te Yu has been with us at NRM since 2006 working on a revision of Rasbora and similar fishes. It has resulted in several phylogenetic studies, and several morepapers, altogether seven publications,  included in the dissertation (A phylogenetic analysis of the rasborins (Cyprinidae: Danioninae: Rasborini)) but still to be published. These papers provide a new framework for danionine systematics and are based on both morphology and molecules. Some of the papers are:

  • Fang, F., M. Norén, T.Y. Liao, M. Källersjö & S.O. Kullander. 2009. Molecular phylogenetic interrelationships of the South Asian cyprinid genera Danio, Devario and Microrasbora (Teleostei, Cyprinidae, Danioninae). Zoologica Scripta, 38: 237-256.
  • Liao, T.Y., S.O. Kullander & F. Fang. 2010. Phylogenetic analysis of the genus Rasbora (Teleostei: Cyprinidae). Zoologica Scripta, 39:155-176.
  • Pramod, P.K., F. Fang, K. Rema Devi, T.-Y. Liao, T.J. Indra, K.S. Jameela Beevi & S.O. Kullander. 2010. Betadevario ramachandrani, a new danionine genus and species from the Western Ghats of India (Teleostei: Cyprinidae: Danioninae). Zootaxa, 2519: 31-47.

Peter Cottle’s book about danios (Danios and Devarios) came out in December, and made a great holiday gift. The title of the foreword (which I wrote …) summarises the opus: Passion. I will get back to this book and others, but suspecting the edition may be somewhat limited, I would recommend you to get your copy now …

What is up now:

There will be more danionine papers, several already in press

A long series of cichlid papers are in an advanced state, both on African and South American cichlids

FishBase will organise three meetings this year: the annual FishBase Minisymposium with the FishBase Consortium, the annual Swedish FishBase symposium, and triannual Artedi Lectures

The first volume about fish in The Encyclopedia of the Swedish Flora and Fauna series will be published in May or so. This volume covers all species of chordates occurring in Sweden from cephalochordates to chondrichthyans, authored by me, Thomas Stach (tunicates) and Henning Blom (introductions to chordates and vertebrates). The illustrations, however, may be the major reason to look forward to this book. They are all new, and all the Swedish fishes are superbly illustrated from scratch by Linda Nyman and Karl Jilg (I haven’t seen the tunicate illustrations).

And I will go to Iceland. All my life I strived to go south, to warmth, but my former student, Georg Friðriksson, who is now an ichthyologist with the Náttúruminjasafn Íslands, has assured me that Iceland is not covered with ice and snow in the summer (or has he? May have to ask again). They have fantastic fish, all kinds of ecophenotypes of char, but also sticklebacks.

As you can see, 2011 looks all bright, new, and worth living.

In the media: WWF and Danio tinwini

 Danios, Fish  Kommentarer inaktiverade för In the media: WWF and Danio tinwini
Okt 062010
 
Danio tinwini

Danio tinwini, living specimen. Photo Sven O Kullander CC-BY-NC

The little fish hit the headlines today, in WWF‘s press release on their report on species described from South East Asia in 2009. Although the cover honours a radically crimson dracula fish (Danionella dracula), page 11 is devoted to Danio tinwini, subject of a longer treatise in this irregular blog.

Of course there are other rare or spectacular things in that report which is well worth downloading. WWF has counted 145 new species as described from what they call the Greater Mekong area. Twenty-six species are fish, four of them from my lab:

  • Danio aesculapii Kullander & Fang
  • Danio quagga Kullander, Liao & Fang
  • Danio tinwini Kullander & Fang
  • Devario xyrops Fang & Kullander

Of course, it is nice of WWF to highlight the species diversity in the region, and there may very well be another 26 species described every year, on and on. It is also welcome that WWF and others are putting funds and energy into conservation efforts of critical areas or whole ecosystems. This work is badly needed; every living thing in the tropics is at risk, and a greater risk every day. It is unfortunate, however, that practically all those discoveries are done with a minimum of funding only, or just out of devotion.  Taxonomy and discovery is underfunded. Where is the money for the discovery, description, and mapping of all the unknown biodiversity?

On October 18, FishBase Sweden organises its annual Symposium. This time the theme is discovery. The importance of exploring new areas, and discovering new species and analysing the evolutionary history of those life forms.  The programme is available from the FishBase Sweden website.

A very strange danio

 Danios, Fish  Kommentarer inaktiverade för A very strange danio
Jul 062010
 

Every well informed freshwater ichthyologist is familiar with petfrd.com forum.  Petfrd does not easily translate to Singapore Cichlid Community, which seems to be the patron of the site, but I have no clue to what petfrd could mean. The forum has several sections, and postings are enthusiastic and often with beautiful images of habitats or […]

Danio year 2009: Danio quagga

 Danios, Fish  Kommentarer inaktiverade för Danio year 2009: Danio quagga
Dec 022009
 

In March last year, our PhD student Te Yu Liao and I were able to collect along the Myanmar border with India, in tributaries to the Chindwin River. Our intended stops were Kalaymyo and Tamu, but we also tried stopping at streams along the road. It was very dry at the time, and even large […]

Fish from nowhere

 Danios, Fish  Kommentarer inaktiverade för Fish from nowhere
Apr 152009
 

Yesterday I mentioned briefly the leopard danio, a small golden fish full of dark spots, apparently a color mutation in the zebrafish Danio rerio, but described in 1963 as a species on its own with the name Brachydanio frankei. The leopard danio is a popular aquarium fish in its own right, which keeps its colors […]

Zebrafish in spirits

 Danios, Fish  Kommentarer inaktiverade för Zebrafish in spirits
Apr 142009
 

Zebrafish (Danio rerio) are probably the most important fish for understanding humans. They are small fish, 2-3 cm long and native to India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Most conspicuous about them is the contrasted coloration with alternating blue and white horizontal stripes, even extending onto the caudal fin. That means they are horizontal where zebras are […]

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