Headstanders

Aquatic scientific names in the news …

Two new species of fish, one from the Orinoco river drainage the other from the Xingu river of Brazil, have been described by a team of scientists from Oregon State and Brazil in a paper published in the journal Neotropical Ichthyology.

The species of fish from the Orinoco River drainage, Leporinus enyae, has been named in honour of the Irish singer and songwriter Enya and her song Orinoco Flow, a song often played in the lab at Oregon State University where some of the scientists were working and which was felt to be appropriate tribute to the songwriter.

Leporinus enyae Image: José Birindelli.

The second newly discovered fish, Leporinus villasboasorum, has been named in honour of the pioneering efforts of the Villas-Bôas brothers, Orlando, Cláudio and Leonardo. In 1961 they succeeded in getting the entire upper Xingu legally protected, the first indigenous park in South America, leading to dozens of further parks being created around the continent.

Leporinus is the largest and most diverse genus in the characiform family Anostomidae and includes roughly 90 species across most of South America. Many species swim in an oblique head-down position earning the family the common name of Headstanders. Most species are herbivores or detritivores and they occur throughout South America with the exception of the east Andes. Both new species are comparatively small, around 20 to 25 cms long, although larger members of their family can reach a length of 60 cms. Some smaller members of the family make their way into the aquarium trade.

The term Leporinus literally means “little hare,” in reference to the large teeth that protrude from the mouth, much like those of a rabbit. The bottom teeth of the two new species are particularly long, and while no one is sure why, the researchers note that it may relate to their foraging on plants, worms and other invertebrates.

Etymology

Leporinus enyae Burns, Chatfield, Birindelli, & Sidlauskas, 2017

Leporinus – Latin, of or like a hare (classical – Pliny). Named in allusion to the large teeth that protrude from the mouth, much like those of a rabbit.

enyae Eponym. “Named in honor of the singer Enya, whose beautiful song “Orinoco Flow” celebrates the flow of the mighty Orinoco River, which the new species inhabits.”*

Leporinus villasboasorum Burns, Chatfield, Birindelli, & Sidlauskas, 2017

Leporinus – As above.

villasboasorum Eponym. “Named in honor of Orlando, Cláudio and Leonardo Villas-Bôas, in recognition of their pioneering efforts to conserve and protect the rio Xingu’s marvelous biodiversity, of which Leporinus villasboasorum forms part.”*

*Systematic assessment of the Leporinus desmotes species complex, with a description of two new species. Michael D. Burns, Marcus Chatfield, José L. O. Birindelli and Brian L. Sidlauskas, 2017

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.