Wednesday 19 June 2013

A new species of Armored Catfish from Peru.

Armored Catfish, Loricariidae, are large river-dwelling Fish native to Central and South America. They are covered in plate-like bony scales, and have distinctive 'suckermouths' used to attach themselves to a substrate in fast flowwing waters while still breathing. They are the largest group of Catfish, with over 680  described species and a fossil record that dates back to the Miocene. They are known in the aquarium trade as 'plecs'.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 19 April 2013, Norma Salcedo of the Grice Marine Laboratory at the College of Charleston describes a new species of Armored Catfish from clear water tributaries of the Río Huallaga near Tingo María in the Departament of Huánuco, Peru.

The new species is named Loraxichthys lexa, where 'Loraxichthys' means the 'Lorax's fish', a reference to the Lorax, a character in a book by Dr Suess, and 'lexa' is in honour of Alexandra Keane a sustainability activist, currently a Political Sciences student at the College of Charleston. The species is based upon specimens collected by the Catherwood Foundation Peruvian-Amazon Expedition, in 1955, and labeled as Chaetostoma marmorescens, a species which it only superficially resembles.

Loraxichthys lexa is a  robust Catfish, extremely flattened and covered in conspicuous bony plates except on the snout, which reaches about 50 mm in length. The colour of the specimens when alive is unknown. 

Loraxichthys lexa, male specimen in (A) lateral, (B) dorsal and (C) ventral view. Salcedo (2013).

At the time when the specimens were collected the area where the fish was collected the area was forested and sparsely populated, though it belonged to Sindicato Monzón and areas were beginning to be cleared for banana plantations. 

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