An Electric Fish Tale
Emanating from the highest peaks of the Merume Mountains in Guyana the Mazaruni River has been protecting the privacy and discovery of a previously unknown electric fish. The Akawaio penak represents the newly discovered genus and species of fish. Nathan Lovejoy, professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough and his team of international researchers, made the discovery.
They have named the thin, eel-like electric knifefish in honor of The Amercian Indian group of people that inhabit the region along the Guyana-Veneuelan border. The Akawaio penak features a characteristic organ that runs the length of the fish at the base of the body. Unlike other electric fish that use this organ to stun their prey, the Akawaio penak's organ produces a much milder electric field in order to navigate its murky habitat.
Like other electric knifefish, Akawaio penak has a long organ running along the base of the body that produces an electric field. The electric field is too weak to stun prey but is instead used to navigate, detect objects and to communicate with other electric fish. This trait is advantageous given the murky habitats of the fish.
The fish was found in the main channel as well as its major tributaries amongst residual sand and pebbles produced and deposited by nearby gold-mining activities. It was found in black to reddish black water with pH ranging form 4.4 to 4.8, temperature of 22-23.5 °C and conductivity <10 μS. One of the many reasons for recent research in this area is the concern over the degradation of the water as a result of this mining activity.
"The Mazaruni contains many unique species that aren't found anywhere else in the world. It's an extremely important area in South America in terms of biodiversity," says Lovejoy. Further, "The fact this area is so remote and has been isolated for such a long time means you are quite likely to find new species."
This area though is largely unexplored due to the nature of its rugged and remote terrain.
Photo Credit: Hernán López-Fernández