Shillong (Meghalaya), Feb 15 : The world’s largest cave fish measuring which are blind and pigmented and around one and a half feet in length have been found in a cave in Meghalaya’s Jaintia Hills.
According to an article by four researchers in the November 2019 issue of Cave and Karst Science, a journal published by the British Cave Research Association.
The fish, part of the Golden Mahseer but has no eyes and is white due to lack of melanin pigmentation, was found in a cave located in a remote and densely forested area in Jaintia Hills region of Meghalaya by a team of researchers .
“It has always been assumed that cave fishes exceeding 350mm (35cm) would be most unlikely on resource grounds but this has now been shown to be spectacularly wrong,” said the article.
“The fish discovered in Meghalaya in February 2019 is not only substantially longer than the longest previously known species but is considerably more bulky with a body mass likely to exceed that of the next largest cave fish by at least an order of magnitude,” the article said .
Jaintia Hills in particular and in fact major parts of the state are known for its caves. Explorers have been mapping the caves since 1992 in association with Brian Kharpan Dally led Meghalaya Adventurers Association and and the discovery in the latest find the explorers .
The explorers had found a similar fish in 1998 as well, inside a cave located 8km away from the present location.
Many of the fish were found in small pools located deep inside the cave proving that the caves get flooded during the rainy season.
The explorers believe the fish is bulky in size due to large and regular food supply, with surface vegetation entering the cave through the entrance shaft on rainy seasons. Hundreds of similar fish were seen in the cave.
Brian Kharpan Dally , President of Meghalaya Adventures Association said that the fish is blind and and can be easlity picked up from the small pools inside the cave .
“When first encountered the fish appeared unresponsive to light, although they did react to the water disturbance created by the cavers wading through the pools,” the article said.
“Although it seems that they were initially unresponsive to light, they are certainly able to perceive light,” it added noting that the fishes initially showed no reaction to light for the first time but moved away when torchlight was shone on them again later.
The researchers stated that the Meghalaya cave fish is a close anatomical match to ‘Tor putitora’ (Golden Mahseer), which is found widely in the area. But “it is highly likely that genetically they are somewhat different from this species” as a result of isolated evolution (it lacks eyes and melanin pigmentation).
“The fish discovered in the Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya in February 2019 is by far the largest troglobitic fish yet known, and is nearly 5 times the mean length (85 mm/8.5 cm) of all known subterranean fishes to date,” the article said .