New haplochromine cichlid from the lower Congo drainage

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A new species of “hap” has been discovered at the village of Ngeba in the Inkisi River basin, which is part of the lower Congo drainage (downriver of Kinshasa and Malebo Pool) and lies in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The species has now been scientifically described as ‘Haplochromis’ snoeksi, the ‘’ denoting the taxonomic problems that still surround the genus Haplochromis.  This problem is discussed at some length in the description.  

Although there are a considerable number of “haps” known from lacustrine (lake) habitats, fluviatile (river) species are much less common, with a total of only 16 previously known from West Africa, so this is actually quite an exciting discovery. Of course, the area is not well explored ichthyologically because of decades of on-off civil war and other difficulties and dangers, so there may well be more (and more fish species in general) to come.

At present the new species is known only from the type locality at Ngeba on the Ngufu River, a tributary of the Inkisi. 

The actual range of the species is unknown, but there is thought to be a strong likelihood that it is endemic to the upper Inkisi drainage, which is isolated, in fish terms, from the mainstream Congo by a waterfall 58m high around 6 km upstream from the confluence of the two rivers. That’s a big drop for a small fish to survive, and five endemic fish species are already known from the Inkisi above the waterfall.   

Water parameters are given as temperature 22.1-25.6 °C, pH 6.5-7.2, hardness 2-5 °dGH, and the following habitat details are cited: substrate sand with stones, current 0.2-0.6 metres per second, maximum depth 1.2 metres, maximum width of river 9.8 metres. The variation may reflect collections being made in both 2007 and 2008, though this isn’t explicitly stated.

The species is distinguished from its Congo basin congeners by a number of scalation characters. 

Its name was chosen in honour of ichthyologist Jos Snoeks, Curator of Fishes at the Royal Museum for Central Africa (MRAC) at Tervuren in Belgium.

For further information see: Wamuini Lunkayilakio, S. & Vreven, E. (2010): ‘Haplochromis’ snoeksi, a new species from the Inkisi River basin, Lower Congo (Perciformes: Cichlidae). Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters, 21 (3): 279-288.