New dwarf Tanganyikan eel described


A new species of mastacembelid eel has been described from Lake Tanganyika in East Africa.

The new species of eel, which has been named Mastacembelus polli in a paper by EJ Vreven in the Journal of Natural History is endemic to Tanganyika and is believed to have a circumlacustrine shore distribution.

The fish, which becomes sexually mature at around 10cm/4" is also thought to be one of the smallest species of eel found in the Lake.

The new fish has actually gone virtually unnoticed in museum spirit collections for many years, as most eel experts mistakenly believed that it represented juveniles of Mastacembelus ophidium.

The two eels are very similar in appearance and are unique among African spiny eels in that the posterior angle of their lips is so far back on the head.

Vreven says that the morphometric, meristic and colour pattern similarities shared between the two species indicates that they are closely related to each other.

To minimise the confusion between the two fish, Vreven has redescribed M. ophidium to better explain the differences between it and the new fish, M. polli.

In a separate paper, Vreven has suggested that the generic names Aethiomastacembelus and Caecomastacembelus are dropped and placed in snyonymy with Mastacembelus, hence the generic assignment for this new fish.

For more details on the new species see the paper: E. J. Vreven (2005) - Redescription of Mastacembelus ophidium Gnther, 1893 (Synbranchiformes: Mastacembelidae) and description of a new spiny eel from Lake Tanganyika. Volume 39, Number 18 / 2005. 1539 - 1560.