A mystery fish has turned out to be a new species of Otopharynx from Lake Malawi.
Early in 2006 Thomas Lepel and Guido Müller, the owners of an ornamental fish business in Germany (Cichlidenstadl in Bühl), found a male cichlid that they couldn’t identify in a consignment of Lake Malawi cichlids from the north-eastern, Tanzanian part of the lake. Another specimen, this time a female, turned up in a subsequent importation a few months later, and the pair were bred successfully.
Lepel and Müller subsequently saw photos of Otopharynx brooksi and felt that their unidentified fishes were strikingly similar, but there were apparent differences in jaw length and the geography didn’t agree, because as far as is known O. brooksi is restricted to the southern part of Lake Malawi.
Another possibility they considered was Otopharynx antron (formerly known as Stigmatochromis sp. "modestus eastern"), which was again strikingly similar; but here too the head form was different and the geography didn’t fit, as O. antron has so far been found only along a short stretch of the east coast, again in the south.
The subsequent unexplained death of a half-grown male of the mystery species (one of the offspring of the two wild-caught specimens) meant it was possible to have a specimen examined and its morphometrics compared to those of similar species. This study revealed that the mystery fish is a new species, not yet described scientifically. It has now been given the working name Otopharynx sp. "Brooksi Tanzania", reflecting its similarity to O. brooksi and its geographical origin.
It would seem probable that further specimens of the new species may be in the hobby in other countries, but not recognised as being something special.
For further information see: Lepel, T. & G. Müller (2011) A previously unknown cichlid from Lake Malawi. eggspots 5: 17-21.