New Genus of Electric Fish Discovered in South America

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Researchers have identified a previously unknown genus of electric fish in a remote region of South America.

Called the Akawaio penak, the fish was found by a team of international scientists among the shallow, cloudy waters of the upper Mazaruni River in northern Guyana.

However, it wasn’t until the reseachers were able to sequence its DNA and reconstruct an evolutionary tree that they realized the fish represents a new genus — the taxonomic classification level above species.

Named after the Akawaio Amerindians that inhabit the area where it is found, the Akawaio penak is a thin, eel-like fish that, like other electric knifefish, boasts a long organ capable of producing an electric field. However, according to the authors of the study detailing the discovery, the electric field is too weak to stun prey. Instead, the fish uses it to detect objects and communicate with others of its kind.

The fact that the new genus was discovered in the upper Mazaruni River is not surprising, according to the researchers: the region is considered a hotspot of biological diversity but remains largely unexamined due to its remote nature, isolated from the rest of South America for more than 30 million years.

“The fact this area is so remote and has been isolated for such a long time means you are quite likely to find new species,” Nathan Lovejoy, a researcher from the University of Toronto Scarborough and co-author, said in a statement.

Despite its remoteness, however, the region is beginning to feel the effects of human activity more and more as regional gold mining works to degrade the area’s freshwater habitats.

“The Mazaruni contains many unique species that aren’t found anywhere else in the world. It’s an extremely important area in South America in terms of biodiversity,” Lovejoy said.

The discovery’s findings are outlined in the recent edition of the journal Zoologica Scripta.

Source | natureworldnews.com

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