Sunday 27 November 2016

Opistognathus ensiferus: A new species of Jawfish from the Gulf of Mannar.

Jawfish, Opistognathidae, are small (generally less than 10 cm) Perciform Fish found in warm, shallow waters across the world. They resemble Blenies, with large heads and elongate bodies, and dwell in burrows in sandy or gravely sediments, emergi from these to feed on plankton and other small prey. The eggs and young of Jawfish are brooded in the mouths of the males, giving them protection against potential predators. Jawfish are popular in the aquarium trade.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 22 November 2016, William Smith-Vaniz of the Division of Ichthyology at the Florida Museum of Natural History describes a new species of Jawfish from the Gulf of Mannar (the body of water that separates India from Sri Lanka).

The new species is placed in the genus Opistognathus, and given the specific name ensiferus, meaning 'sword-bearing', in reference to the upper jaw, which is long and resembles a scimitar. It is described from a single male specimen collected from Manauli Reef off Musal Tivu Island (an island in the Gulf of Mannar belonging to Tamil Nadu State, India) in February 1964 by ichthyologist Loren Woods of the Field Museum of Natural History and stored on the collection of that body. The specimen is 61.5 mm in length and has lost its colour in preservative.

Opistognathus ensiferus, male, 61.5 mm SL, India, Gulf of Mannar, Manauli Reef. Jack Schroeder in Smith-Vaniz (2016).
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