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Sri Lankan Scientists Identify a New Genus of Fish

18 July 2012, at 1:00am

SRI LANKA - Sri Lankan scientists have identified a new genus of fresh water fish and named it after the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

Lead researcher Rohan Pethiyagoda said the new genus, named Dawkinsia, comprises nine species that are found only in South Asia and are characterised by long filaments that trail from the dorsal fins of males. The fish has previously been classified under the genus Puntius, comprising around 120 species of small tropical fish known as barbs.

Mr Pethiyagoda, an ichthyologist and internationally acclaimed conservationist, said extensive studies in India and Sri Lanka showed that the level of diversity among such fish was "much greater than previously suspected". This was partly the reason that the study group had chosen to name the new genus after the 71-year-old Dawkins.

He said that Richard Dawkins has through his writings helped them understand that the universe is far more beautiful and awe-inspiring, and they hope that Dawkinsia will serve as a reminder of the elegance and simplicity of evolution, the only rational explanation there is for the unimaginable diversity of life on Earth.

Mr Pethiyagod also said that male Dawkinsia barbs advertise their fitness by growing long fin filaments that make them more attractive to females while dangerously conspicuous to predators. The filaments, he said, rather like the peacock's tail, are expensive ornaments that place their owner at greater risk while offering him the reward of being the preferred choice of females.

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