On the Fishes of the Dukhun

W. Sykes

In submitting to the Society an account of the fishes of Dukhun, it will scarcely excite surprise, that out of 46 species described, no less than 42 are new to science, since they are from a hitherto untrodden field, and from peculiar localities, on the great plateau of the Dukhun (Deccan), none of them coming from a less elevation than 1500 feet above the sea; many from near 2000 feet, and others from yet higher situations. The chief features in the collection are the paucity of orders to which the collection belongs, and the remarkable prevalence of the members of the families of Siluridæ and Cyprinidæ . There is but one apodal Malacopterygian , but four Acanthopterygii , and the whole of the rest of the fishes belong to the order Abdominal Malacopterygians. Of the families there are only eight Percidæ , Scombridæ , «Pharyngiens Labyrinthiformes», Gobiadæ , Siluridæ , Cyprinidæ , Esocidæ , and Murenidæ , comprising fifteen genera and nine subgenera, including one subgenus, which I have been compelled to add to the Cyprinidm. An attempt has been made to methodize and distinguish the multitudinous members of the families of Siluridæ and Cyprinidæ . The fact is, the continued inosculation in the character of the teeth, of the cirri, of the spines (serrated or not), of the fins, of the armature of the head, and of the position of the fins, in the Siluridæ ; and of the number of cirri , and form and position of the fins in the Cyprinidæ together with the character of the mouth, produce such approximations in species to each other, and in individuals of one genus to another, that not only is there infinite difficulty in determining the genera of the fishes of these families, but their identity as species is occasionally not less difficult. Some of my Situridev do not exactly correspond with the generic characters of the genera of this family as now constituted, and I might have added to the number of genera; but to this I have an objection, unless as an evidently necessary measure. In the Cyprinidæ however, I was obliged to set aside my repugnance, for three species were not referrible to any one even of the numerous subgenera which Buchanan Hamilton wished to establish. It only remains to state, that the whole of my fishes were drawn from absolute measurement, and have a scale of size attached to each figure: they were caught in the various rivers on whose banks I encamped, as individuals were required; so that my draftsman, who worked constantly under my own eye, never had to finish his drawings from shriveled and discoloured specimens. I have to a great extent adopted the names by which the fishes are called by the Mahrattas, as specific names, so that naturalists who travel the country can always obtain them.



An Ophicephalus, with from 51 to 53 rays in the dorsal, and 6 in each ventral fin, and with the rays of the dorsal and anal fins undivided; the pectoral fins ending in a central point; and the fish covered with white dots.

The drawing of Ophicephalus leucopunctatus which Sykes added to his description. The today's ichthyology synonymizes it with Channa marulia Hamilton.
This fish is of a long and roundish form, and of a reddish or brown-black colour: the head is very flat; the eyes close to the snout, circular, and having yellow irides . The dorsal fin has from 51 to 53 rays, and extends from near the shoulders almost to the tail; the anal fin has from 33 to 35 rays, and, commencing at the middle of the fish, terminates near the tail ; the pectoral fins have each from 15 to 17 rays ; the ventral fins are situated beneath the pectoral, and near to each other, and have each six rays ; the rays are divided; the caudal fin has 13 rays, -exclusive of two or three minute outer rays: the tail is compressed, not forked, but oval-acuminate at the end. The scales are numerous; the mouth wide, and furnished with very small teeth in double rows. The tail is speckled with white spots, and so are the dorsal and anal fins, and the body is partially speckled with white. A faint longitudinal line is observable on each side of the body, extending from the upper insertion of the pectoral fins to the tail. The length of a specimen brought me at Munchar from the Goreh river was 36 inches, and its weight was 3.25 seers (6 lbs. 6 oz. 8 drs. 7 grs., avoirdupois). The fish sometimes weighs 6 seers (11 lbs. 13 oz. 4 drs. 8 grs.). The flesh is remarkably firm and sweet, and the bones are small and not numerous: it is much esteemed by the natives, and sells at 4 seers (7 lbs. 14 oz. 2 drs. 18 grs.) per rupee. Found in all the rivers of the Dukhun.

This species differs from the O. Maulius of Dr. Hamilton, in having two rays less in the pectoral fins, in the absence of the ocellated spots on the tail-fin, in the dorsal, anal, and tail fins not being rounded behind, and in having numerous white spots; neither is it identical with any one of the species of Ophicephalus figured in Russell's Coromandel Fishes .

I never knew this fish to crawl on shore, or in the grass, as some species of the genus are said to do.

Native name: Murrul .

This passage originally appeared 1841 as: Sykes, W.H. - On the fishes of the Dukhun . In Transactions of the Zoological Society. London, vol 12. pp. 349-352.

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