A species of snakehead fish native to Meghalaya and previously unknown to science has been named for its local discoverer, Aristone Manbha Ryndongsngi, it was announced recently.
Channa aristonei, found in rivers near Puriang, East Khasi Hills, is the latest species of snakehead fish to be described by science. Known locally as dohthili, it had yet to be identified by the scientific community until Ryndongsngi shared an image of the beautiful blue fish with researcher J Praveenraj in 2019.
Ryndongsngi said, “It gives me immense pleasure to have a species named after me and this is a lifetime achievement for me. I also feel extremely overjoyed to have a beautiful snakehead fish on my name. Right from my childhood I always dreamt of having any discovery to be honoured on my name.”
Snakeheads are small to large-bodied fish ranging from 10 to 180 centimetres in length. Appropriate to their name, the have a head shape resembling that of a snake and have specialised air breathing organs in their gills that allow them to inhale oxygen while out of the water. They are valued as edible and ornamental fish.
Many colourful snakehead species inhabit hill streams, swamps, wetlands and lakes in the North East, which currently harbours 11 species, including C aristonei.
There are four other species of snakehead that have been discovered in Meghalaya – C pardalis, C lipor, C gachua and C stewartii.
The discovery of this new species further enhances Meghalaya’s and the North East’s reputation as a hotspot of snakehead diversity.
Ryndongsngi, besides being interested in fish, is also involved in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Praveenraj is a scientist in the fisheries science division at Indian Council of Agricultural Central Island Agricultural Research Institute (ICAR-CIARI), Port Blair. Another member of the research team was Tejas Thackeray, wildlife photographer, researcher and son of the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.