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Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 107(3), Sep-Dec 2010 


231-235 


CHANNA MELANOSTIGMA , A NEW SPECIES OF FRESHWATER SNAKEHEAD 
FROM NORTH-EAST INDIA (TELEOSTEI: CHANNIDAE) 

Khangjrakpam Geetakumari 1,2 and Waikhom Vishwanath*- 3 


‘Department of Life Sciences, Manipur University, Canchipur, Imphal 795 003, Manipur, India. 

2 Email: geetameme@gmail.com 
? Email: wvnath@gmail.com 

Channa melanostigma , a new channid fish species is described from north-east India. The species is distinguished 
from all its congeners by a combination of the following characters: 14-15 black zig-zag transverse bars at irregular 
intervals on caudal fin (when stretched), the interspaces being 2/3 rd of the bars; dorsal fin inserted after 3-4 scales 
vertically above the pectoral fin origin, V 2 I-V 2 S scales below the lateral line, 5 cheek scales, 27-28 circumpeduncular 
scales, 50-51 vertebrae, 7 branchial tooth plates, 36-37 branched dorsal fin rays and last dorsal fin inserted in between 
41 and 43 vertebrae. 

Key words: Channid fish, new species, Arunachal Pradesh 


INTRODUCTION 

Freshwater snake-headed fishes of the Family 
Channidae is represented by 31 species, of which 28 are of 
Asian genus Channa Scopoli and three of African 
genus Parachanna Li et al. (2005). All species in this genus 
have cavities in the head which act as a primitive lung 
enabling them to live for long time out of water (Shaw and 
Shebbeare 1937). 

North-east India having many derelict swamps is rich 
in channid fauna. Hamilton (1822) described Ophiocephahis 
barca from Brahmaputra river, Assam; O. gachua from ponds 
and ditches of Bengal and O. maruHus from Gangetic 
provinces, India. McClelland (1845) described O . amphibeus 
from the vicinity of Chel river. North Bengal. Playfair 
(1867), Vierke (1991) and Musikasinthorn (2000) 
respectively described O. stewartii , Channa bleheri and 
C. aurantimaculata from Assam. Shaw and Shebbeare (1937) 
and Menon (1954), listed O. striatus and O. punctatus 
respectively from North Bengal and Manipur. All the above 
species are now in Channa. The works of Sen (1999), Nath 
and Dey (2000) and Sen (2006) on the fishes of Arunachal 
Pradesh did not include any additional species of Channa. 
Vishwanath and Geetakumari (2009) provided diagnostic 
characters of nine species of Channa from North-east India 
and studied their inter-relationships. Recently, Bagra et al. 
(2009) included an unidentified species, Channa sp. 1, in 
their checklist of fishes of Arunachal Pradesh, which was 
also collected from the type locality of the new species under 
description. 

Collections from Lohit river (Brahmaputra basin), 
Arunachal Pradesh, in 2007, included an unnamed species 
of Channa which is herein described as Channa 
melanostigma , a new species. 


MATERIAL AND METHODS 

Measurements were made point to point with dial 
calipers to the nearest 0.1 mm. Counts and measurements 
were made on the left side of specimens under a PC-based 
binocular stereozoom microscope with transmitted light. 
Counts and measurements followed Musikasinthorn (1998). 
Clearing and staining of specimens for osteology followed 
Hollister (1934). Identification and nomenclature of bones 
and vertebral counts followed Greenwood (1976). As the gill 
rakers in the genus are modified to form toothplate, we use 
the term ‘branchial toothplate count' instead of gill raker count 
following Greenwood (1976). The count was taken on the 
first gill arch starting from hypobranchial to epibranchial on 
the left side of the specimens. Measurements of head length 
and body parts are expressed as proportions of standard length 
(SL) while subunits of the head, as proportions of head length 
(HL). Material examined in this study is deposited in Manipur 
University Museum of Fishes (MUMF). 

Channa melanostigma sp. nov. (Fig. 1) 

Material examined: Holotype. MUMF-Per 39, 
134.8 mm SL; India: Arunachal Pradesh: Lohit district, Lohit 
river, Brahmaputra drainage: Tezu, 27° 54 r 41" N, 96° K/ 
23" E; K. Nebeshwar Sharma, 29.iii.2007. 

Paratypes: 7 specimens, MUMF-Per 40-46, 6, 
82.1-143.0 mm SL; same data as for holotype, MUMF-Per 
45 and 46 dissected, cleared and stained for osteology. 

Diagnosis: Channa melanostigma is distinguished from 
its nearest congener C. stewartii in having distinct 14-15 black 
zigzag transverse bars at irregular intervals (when stretched), 
the interspaces being 2/3 rd of the bars on the caudal fin 
(Fig. 2a) vs. no black zigzag bars in the caudal fin (Fig. 2b); 









NEW DESCRIPTIONS 



Fig. 1: Side view of Channa melanostigma sp. nov., paratype, MUMF-Per 40, 112.5 mm SL 


dorsal fin origin after 3-4 scales vertically above the pectoral 
fin origin vs. vertically above the pectoral origin, vertebra 
50-51 vs. 44, branchial toothplate count 7 vs. 3 and more 
number of scales below the lateral line V 2 I-V 2 8 vs. Vi5. It is 
also distinguished from C. gachua in having more number of 
vertebra (50-51 vs. 43), toothplate count (7 vs. 9), last dorsal 
fin ray inserted in between 41 st and 43 rd vertebrae (vs. 35 th 
and 36 th ). In case of C. gachua the juveniles have a very 7 
distinct ocellus at the posterior end of the dorsal fin base 
but the ocellus is completely absent in case of the 
C. melanostigma. It differs from C. aurantimaculata in having 
less number of dorsal fin rays (36-37 vs. 45-47), last dorsal 
finray inserted between 41 st and 43 rd vertebrae (vs. 46 th 
and 47 th ), cheek scales 5 vs. 10 and less number of 
circumpeduncular scales (28 vs. 34). 

Description: Morphometric data are in Table 1. Dorsal 
fin 36-37 simple rays. Anal fin 24-25 simple rays, pectoral 
fin one simple and 14-15 branched rays, pelvic fin 5 simple 
rays, caudal fin 14 branched rays, predorsal scales 13-14, 
lateral line scales dropping one row following 15-17 th anterior- 


most scales. Two large cycloid scales on each side of lower 
jaw, transverse scales 1 /23- , /24/l/ 1 /27- 1 /28. caudal fin with 
14-15 black zigzag bars, black spots throughout the flank, 
12-14 alternate black and whitish transverse bars on the body, 
cheek scales 5-6, circumpeduncular scales 27-28, scales below 
the lateral line V^-V^S, total vertebrae 50-51; last ray of dorsal 
fin in between 41 -43 vertebrae, precaudal + caudal vertebrae 
= 44-45+6, toothplate count 7. Cephalic sensory pores single, 
without satellite openings. Body elongated, cross-section 
almost circular in anterior portion and somewhat compressed 
posteriorly. Body depth greatest at ventral fins origin. Body 
widest at pectoral fin origin. Dorsal and anal fin bases long 
(56.9-62.6% SL and 37.7-44.3% SL, respectively). Head 
depth 11.7-14.6% HL, head width 15.9-20.9% HL, body depth 
14.4-15.3% SL, caudal peduncle depth 9.7-10.75% SL, pelvic 
fin length 7.4- 9.2% SL. 

Outer margins of pectoral and caudal fins rounded. 
Dorsal fin origin after 3-4 scales vertically above the pectoral 
fin origin. Head elongated 26.9-31.3% SL, concave in lateral 
view. Snout narrow, dorsal profile of snout somewhat convex. 




Fig. 2; Comparison of caudal fins: a. Channa melanostigma sp. nov. (paratype, MUMF-Per 40, 112.5 mm SL) stretched, 

b. C. stewartii (MUMF-Per 21, 109.7 mm SL) 


232 


J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc., 107 (3), Sep-Dec 2010 









NEW DESCRIPTIONS 


Table 1: Biometric data of Channa melanostigma sp. nov. and C. stewartii except SL and HL in mm 


C. melanostigma sp. nov. C. stewartii 


Holotype 

Paratypes MUMF-Per/40-45 

MUMF-Per/21,22 

Goswami 

MUMF- Per/39 

(n=6) (Lohit) 

(n=2) 

et at. (2006) 

(n=6) 


SL (mm) 

% SL 

134.8 

82.1 

mean 

-143.0 

range 

S.D. 

109.7-155.2 

148.0-157.0 

Head length 

30.8 

29.8 

26.9-31.3 

1.91 

30.8-30.9 

29.3-30.7 

Head depth 

14.4 

13.6 

11.7-14.6 

1.38 

15.0-16.4 

14.0-14.7 

Head width 

19.9 

18.8 

15.9-20.9 

1.96 

20.1-21.4 

19.0-19.8 

Body depth 

17.4 

15.4 

14.4-15.3 

1.03 

17.9-18.3 

14.0-15.9 

Body width 

13.6 

12.5 

10.7-14.3 

1.34 

12.1-13.3 

11.8-12.7 

Caudal peduncle length 

10.2 

10.3 

9.9-11.0 

0.41 

10.0-11.2 

10.0-11.0 

Caudal peduncle depth 

10.8 

10.2 

9.7-10.7 

0.51 

10.8-11.2 

10.3-11.2 

Predorsal length 

35.3 

34.2 

31.6-35.7 

3.90 

32.9-33.9 

31.9-35.5 

Preanal length 

53.1 

51.5 

47.8-53.1 

1.93 

48.6-52.5 

50.0-53.3 

Prepectoral length 

32.0 

30.8 

27.8-32.6 

2.16 

32.1-34.1 

28.7-32.5 

Prepelvic length 

37.2 

34.4 

29.6-37.6 

3.90 

35.6-37.4 

35.0-37.7 

Dorsal fin base length 

56.9 

59.2 

58.3-62.6 

2.11 

61.7-64.6 

59.2-61.7 

Anal fin base length 

37.7 

40.9 

39.7-44.3 

2.68 

39.2-39.7 

37.0-39.2 

Pectoral fin length 

18.3 

18.3 

17.1-20.0 

1.04 

19.4-19.8 

17.8-19.8 

Pelvic fin length 

7.7 

8.1 

7.4-9.2 

0.69 

6.1-7.1 

7.0-7.6 

Head length (mm) 

41.5 

39.3 

32.4-41.5 

3.59 

34-47.9 

4.3-4.7 

% HL 

Head depth 

46.9 

45.3 

42.3-46.6 

1.89 

48.5-53.0 

46.5-48.9 

Head width 

64.0 

62.7 

57.2-66.9 

3.50 

65.0-69.3 

64.0-66.0 

Snout length 

19.5 

21.8 

21.8-23.1 

1.37 

21.5-21.8 

No data 

Eye diameter 

14.5 

14.9 

14.3-15.6 

0.61 

13.9-15.6 

14.6-16.0 

Preorbital head depth 

24.8 

25.0 

23.4-26.5 

1.19 

24.2-30.9 

21.1-31.9 

Postorbital head length 

68.2 

66.7 

63.8-68.8 

2.23 

66.8-69.5 

65.4-69.2 

Postorbital head depth 

34.7 

32.5 

29.6-34.9 

2.29 

24.2-30.9 

No data 

Interorbital width 

34.9 

33.3 

31-35.3 

1.97 

32.9-38.4 

30.4-35.6 

Upper jaw length 

40.5 

42.5 

40.1-48.7 

3.52 

41.1-45.9 

30.9-37.4 


Interorbital region almost flat. Orbit not reaching dorsal 
contour of head in lateral view. Mouth large, maxilla and 
premaxillary process extending to vertical level of the 
posterior end of the orbit. 

Dentition: Many small conical teeth embedded in 
premaxilla, prevomer, and palatine, the prevomer being with 
10 more additional large canine-like teeth. Dentary is also 
with many small teeth on outer region, plus 9 large canine¬ 
like teeth medially on each side (Fig. 3). 

Colour: In alcohol, dorsal side of body brown or 
darkish brown, ventral side whitish, 12-14 alternate dark and 
whitish transverse bars on the sides. Black spots scattered 
throughout the body 4-5 rows of spots on dorsal fin, caudal 
fin with distinct 14-15 zigzag cross bars at irregular intervals 
where the interspace between two bars is 2/3 rd of the zigzag 
bar. Pectoral fin with 5-6 black bars. Edges of dorsal and 
anal fins white. 


Distribution: Presently known from Lohit river at Tezu, 
Lohit district, Arunachal Pradesh (Brahmaputra drainage), 
India (Fig. 4). 

Etymology : Named after the melanophores present on 
each scale on flanks. 

Discussion: Channa melanostigma is similar to 
C. stewartii in overall body appearance, head shape, i.e., 
generally rounded in lateral view and coloration, numerous 
small black spots scattered on body, narrow and pointed snout, 
lateral line scales 46-47, scale rows between preopercular 
angle and posterior border of orbit 4-6, predorsal scales 13, 
maxilla and premaxillary process extending to vertical level 
of the posterior end of the orbit, pectoral fin rays 14-15, caudal 
fin rays 13-14, and scales above the lateral line 3 l /i. However, 
C. melanostigma is distinct particularly in having the caudal 
bars, more number of branchial toothplates, vertebra and 
scales below lateral line. 


J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc., 107 (3), Sep-Dec 2010 


233 










NEW DESCRIPTIONS 




Fig. 3: Dentition of Channa melanostigma sp. nov. 

(MUMF-Per 46) 

The new species is also similar to C. gachiui in having 
white coloration at the edge of dorsal and anal fins, lateral 
line 46-47, and presence of 5-6 black bars on the pectoral fin. 
However, C. melanostigma is distinguished from both the 
species as in diagnosis above. But it is distinguished from 
the latter in its more number of vertebrae and more posteriorly 
inserted dorsal fin. 

Channa melanostigma is distinguished from 
C. anrantimacnlata in having less number of dorsal fin rays 
(36-37 vs. 45-47), last dorsal fin ray inserted between 41 st 
and 43 rd vertebrae (vs. 46 th and 47 th ), cheek scales 5 vs. 
10 and less number of circumpeduncular scales (28 vs. 34), 
from C. pnnctatns in having 50-51 vertebrae (vs. 35); from 
C. amphibeus , in its less numbers of lateral line pierced scales 
(46-47 vs. 80-81): from C. barca , in having continuous black 
bars in the pectoral fin (vs. dotted bars); from C. bleheri in 
having pelvic fin (vs. absence); from C. harcoiirtbntleri in 



Fig. 4; Collection sites of Channa melanostigma sp. nov. 
from NE India 


having 10 scales below the lateral line (vs. V 2 I- V 28 ) and from 
C. mam l ins and C. striata by the presence of two large cycloid 
scales on each side of the undersurface of lower jaw 
(vs. absence). 

The new species is easily distinguished from Channa 
nox of China and C. orientalis of Sri Lanka in presence of 
pelvic fin (vs. absence); C. panaw of Myanmar in having 
27-28 circumpeduncular scales (vs. 21-24); C. omatipinnis 
of Myanmar in absence of three dorsal fin blotches 
(vs. presence); and C. pulchra of Myanmar in absence of one 
anterior dorsal fin blotch (vs. presence). The species is also 
distinguished from C. argus of China. C. baramensis of 
Malaysia: C. bankanensis , C. Incins , C. cyanospilos , 
C. melanopteniSs C. melasoma , C. micropeltes. and 
C. pleurophthalmns of Indonesia by the presence of two large 
cycloid scales on each side of the undersurface of lower jaw 
(vs. absence). 

Hora and Mukerji (1934) synonymised Channa 
harcoiirtbntleri with C. gachna. However, Ng et al. (1999) 
resurrected the species from synonymy and reported it to be 
endemic in Inle lake of Myanmar. Menon (1954) listed 
C. harcoiirtbntleri from Manipur without any collection data. 
This was probably a misidentification of C. gachna . 

Vishwanath and Geetakumari (2009) recognized two 
groups of Channa in north-east India, namely 4 gachua-group\ 
with large cycloid scales on each side of the undersurface of 
lower jaw which included C amphibeus , C. anrantimacnlata , 


234 


1 Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc., 107 (3), Sep-Dec 2010 












NEW DESCRIPTIONS 


C. barca , C. bleheri , C. gachua , C. punctata , C. stewartii 
and ‘marulius-group* without the scales as in the above which 
included C. striata and C. marulius. The new species under 
description belong to the ‘gachua-group’ as its has large 
cycloid scales. 

General inventory and phylogenetic study of the diverse 
species of Channa in north-east India and adjoining areas is 
awaited. 

Comparative Material: Channa amphibeus : ZSI 
11435, 1, neotype, 184.6mm SL; India: Northern Bengal. 
Channa aurantimaculata: MUMF-Per 01,2, 175-182.0 mm 
SL; India: Arunachal Pradesh, Lohit district, Teju river. 
GUBM (Guwahati University Biodiversity Museum uncat., 
1 ex, 345 mm SL: lndia: Assam, Guijan. Channa barca: ZSI 
1387, 1 ex, 260.7 mm SL; india: Calcutta. GUBM uncat., 
1 ex, 447.7 mm SL, india: Assam, Guwahati, Marigoan 
Market; MUMF-Per 44 (2), 295-298 mm SL, india: Assam, 
fringe area of Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Morigaon. Channa 
bleheri : MUMF-Per 03, 2, 148.4-149.1 mm SL, india: 
Arunachal Pradesh, Dikrong river, Doymukh; BMGU uncat., 
1 ex, 121.0 mm SL, india: Assam, Tinsukia district. Channa 
gachua : ZSI F 2705, 1 ex. 246.0 mm SL, Bangladesh: 
Bulagunj, Sylhet; MUMF-Per/0004 (6), 112.8-112.9 mm SL, 
india: Manipur, Nambul River, Singda. Channa 
harcourtbutleri : ZSI F 9439, 1 ex, 189.0 mm SL, myanmar: 
Inle Lake, S. Shan states. Channa maruJius: MUMF uncat., 


I ex, 488.0 mm SL, india: Manipur, Barak river, 
Vanchengphai, Tamenglong district; MUMF-Per 25, 7,97.8- 

151.6 mm SL, Chindwin Basin, Moreh, India. Channa 
punctata: ZS1F 7688, 1 ex, 144.6 mm SL, india: Bihar, 
Bhagmati River, Pumea, Champaran district; MUMF-Per 13, 
6,95.6-105.9 mm SL, india: Manipur, Nambul River, Singda. 
Channa stewartii: ZSI 10024, 1, 170.0 mm SL, india: 
Meghalaya, Shillong; MUMF-Per 21,2,109.7-155.2 mm SL, 
india: Arunachal Pradesh, Deopani river. Rowing, Lower 
Devang Valley district: BMGU uncat., 1 ex, 260.0 mm SL. 
india: Assam, Guijan. Channa striata: ZSI F 12922, 1 ex, 

247.6 mm SL. india: Andhra Pradesh, Cheyyeru river, near 
Razampeta: MUMF-Per 31, 8, 164.8-187.0 mm SL, india: 
Manipur, streams near Imphal valley. 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 

We are grateful to Prof. M.M. Goswami, Guwahati 
University, for donating Channa barca from his collection 
and also for permitting to examine his collections in GUBM. 
We thank Dr. K. Nebeshwar Sharma for collecting Channa 
specimens from Arunachal Pradesh. The first author is grateful 
to Manipur University for the award of UGC research 
scholarship. The second author is grateful to the Ministry of 
Environment & Forests, Government of India for financial 
assistance (Project No. 14/11/2006-ERS/RE). 


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