New fish species discovered
Eva Decru, Emmanuel Vreven, and Jos Snoeks (Ichthyology Unit) have published an article describing Hepsetus akawo, a new freshwater fish species from Western Africa, in the January 2012 issue of the Journal of Natural History.
|Hepsetus akawo. Drawing: A. Reygel|
The researchers managed to confirm this hypothesis by studying a number of morphological characteristics, a process that led to the description of Hepsetus akawo. The name comes from ‘akawo nyagbe’ the common name given to this fish in Ghana in the Adangme language (‘akawo’ means ‘attacker’ or ‘predator’). While H. odoe is found in the westernmost portion of West Africa (from Senegal to Côte d’Ivoire), H. akawo is present from Côte d’Ivoire to Cameroon.
The new species was described based on specimens kept at the RMCA. With nearly a million African fishes in its records, the RMCA collection probably contains more hitherto unidentified species. This article is part of a broader study that includes the review of specimens coming from the full distribution area for Hepsetus. One of its more remarkable findings is the fact that this family, long believed to have but one widely-distributed species, may actually comprise six different species, each of which live in largely distinct regions of the African continent.
Such research in taxonomy is essential should there be a need to develop strategies for conserving fish species that may be affected by intensive fishing. Such strategies cannot be drawn up for unknown species. ‘This study is a good example that shows just how much is left to discover’, explained Eva Decru. ‘With biodiversity conversation becoming increasingly important, taxonomy forms the basis for all future research on fish.’
Incidentally, the holotype (or reference specimen) for this new species was collected in Togo on 10 September 1966 by Dirk Thys van den Audenaerde, one of the RMCA’s former directors-general.
The article ‘A revision of the West African Hepsetus (Characiformes: Hepsetidae) with a description of Hepsetus akawo sp. nov. and a redescription of Hepsetus odoe (Bloch, 1794)’ was published in the January 2012 issue of the Journal of Natural History: