Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and Louisiana State University have identified a new genus and species of cavefish from Mexico, the Oaxaca cave sleeper (Caecieleotris morrisi).
The species is the first cave-adapted sleeper goby to be found in the Western Hemisphere. The fish, identified from museum specimens, has not been seen alive in more than two decades and lives in a cave system threatened by damming.
The Oaxaca Cave Sleeper occurs in a single cave system beneath Presa Miguel Alemán reservoir, which is formed by a dam on the Tonto River, a tributary of Mexico’s second largest river.
There are only 13 known individuals, all collected at the same time. Thomas L. Morris, a renowned cave diver and cave biologist who works to protect caves and their inhabitants, collected the fish in 1995.
Morris gave the specimens to the Florida Museum of Natural History where Stephen Walsh, now a researcher with the USGS, recognized the distinctiveness of the new species while in the process of conducting taxonomic research and digitizing the museum’s fish collection.
Walsh and colleague Prosanta Chakrabarty of Louisiana State University compared the specimens to other sleepers, and determined that they represent a new genus and species.
The researchers gave the Oaxaca Cave Sleeper the scientific name Caecieleotris morrisi to honor Morris for his discovery and his dedication to conservation.
Discovery of the new species afforded an opportunity for the USGS to partner with the natural history museum community in designating a scientific name for this unique cavefish.
The paper, A new genus and species of blind sleeper (Teleostei: Eleotridae) from Oaxaca, Mexico: first obligate cave gobiiform in the western hemisphere, was recently published in the journal Copeia, a widely-cited journal that publishes original research on fishes, amphibians and reptiles.
source: U.S. Geological Survey