Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Freshwater fish of Myanmar

An EU team studied the evolution and genetics of three groups of Myanmar's freshwater fish. Work showed the snakeheads to be more diverse than previously thought, introduced the relationship among earthworm eels, and dated population separations.
Freshwater fish of Myanmar
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is located on Asia's Indian Ocean coast. The location straddles two of the world's largest river systems, making Myanmar ideal for the study of economically important freshwater fish species.

The EU-funded MYANMAR-FISH (Myanmar freshwater biogeography; understanding a zoogeographical transition zone) project examined the genetic diversity and evolutionary history of three freshwater fish groups. The list included leaffishes, earthworm eels, and snakeheads. All such taxa are economically important, yet relatively unknown from genetic and evolutionary points of view. Using museum specimens plus recently-collected individuals, researchers compared anatomy and DNA.

Researchers identified subtle morphological differences in snakehead scales and vertebrae, plus large genetic differences. Such results indicate that the group is more diverse than previously believed. The team effectively discovered five new species, in addition to the three already known.

The project's evolutionary history of earthworm eels was the first ever obtained. Results illustrated relationships among species, revealing one as a new genus.

Study results also reveal the biogeographic history of the region in ways not apparent from the fossil or geological record. Genetic information dates the separations of certain populations, providing clues about the partitioning of ancient river systems. The work illustrated common patterns of speciation. Such information reveals the sequence of separations in particular rivers, helping to reconstruct the effects of the Himalayas' rise around 50 million years ago.

The MYANMAR-FISH project's work is important for conservation management and potentially for fish-farming. Knowing what constitutes a species, and where species live, helps establish the scale for effective conservation measures.

Related information

Keywords

Myanmar, freshwater, MYANMAR-FISH, fish, genetics, evolution
Record Number: 182795 / Last updated on: 2016-05-25
Domain: Environment
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