Aenigmachanna gollum

#GS3 #Biodiversity #Environment #Species


A 100 million-year-old fish has been discovered in Kerala which is named after the dark and conflicted character of JRR Tolkien’s epic saga movie ‘Lord of the Rings’.

  • The area where Aenigmachanna was collected is part of the Western Ghats – Sri Lanka Hotspot — which is among the richest biodiversity hotspots in the world.



  • It looks like a dragon, swims like an eel, and has remained hidden for a hundred million years.
  • ‘Aenigmachanna Gollum’ belongs to an old family of fish, called dragon snakeheads, which retains its primitive characteristics after all these millennia.
  • Besides the Gollum, a sister species have also been discovered, called ‘Aenigmachanna mahabali’.
  • The discovery of a new family of fish is very rare. The dragon snakeheads have evaded scientists till now because they live in subterranean aquifers and come to the surface only after heavy flooding from rain.
  • The closest relative of the family Aenigmachannidae is the Channidae, of which at least 50 species can be found in the streams and lakes of Asia and tropical Africa.
  • According to molecular analyses, the two families split from each other 34 million to 109 million years ago.
  • This may indicate that Aenigmachanna is a Gondwanan lineage, which has survived the break-up of the supercontinent, with India separating from Africa at around 120 million years ago.
  • The lack of evolution can be seen in the shortened swim bladder of the dragon snakeheads as well as fewer vertebrae with ribs. These indicate that the family is less specialized than regular snakeheads.
  • The family also has eyes and a reddish-brown pigmentation, which is unusual as most subterranean fish are pale and have no eyes.


How the fish was discovered?

  • The fish came into the limelight after a local Keralite found fishes in the paddy fields of Kerala, after the 2018 floods.
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