Exploring Cavernicole fishes of Meghalaya, a biodiversity hotspot region by ICAR-NBFGR, Lucknow
Caves are natural openings in the ground extending beyond the zone of light and are large enough to permit the entry of man. Occurring in a wide variety of rock types and caused by widely differing geological processes, caves range in size from single small rooms to interconnecting passages many miles long. Caves are regarded as the habitat of innumerable vertebrates and invertebrates species adapted for brief visits or for life.
Meghalaya, a small state in the North-Eastern region of India has more than 1500 caves, the majority of which are limestone caves and a few sandstone caves. The caves of Meghalaya are relatively unexplored and ichthyodiversity is barely known, though a few caves of Meghalaya have been systematically explored and documented. ICAR-National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources, Lucknow tasked with the mandate of exploration, characterization, and cataloging of fish genetic resources has initiated systematic studies in Meghalaya caves since 2020 to report undescribed and unidentified cavernicole fishes. Collecting and studying the troglomorphic (true cave-dwelling) fish species is difficult considering the inaccessibility through cave systems as they are either collapsed and/or remain blocked by boulders and have an extremely high pitch. This work was initiated as per instructions of the ICAR in response to the points that emerged based on the Review Meeting of the ICAR before the Hon'ble Prime Minister on July 4, 2020. Under NEH programme of ICAR-NBFGR in collaboration with Gauhati University, Guwahati, Assam and Lady Keane College, Shillong, Meghalaya, 12 limestone caves of Khasi, Jaintia and Garohills districts of Meghalaya have been explored.
A total of 11 fish species have been collected out of which one is cavernicole species and one needs further investigation.
More efforts towards documentation and identification of the troglomorphic species shall definitely aid in understanding this ecosystem better and unearth new fish species to science.
(Source: ICAR-National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources, Lucknow)