Aenigmachanna mahabali

Kumar, Basheer and Ravi 2019







Only a holotype has been assigned: ICAR-NBFGR/CHAPMAH.1 127mm SL


Known only from the type locality: A well near to Thiruvalla, Pathanamthitta District, Peringara, Kerala, India


The true habitat is not known as the only sample was from a well.


In the original description of this genus and species (Britz et al. 2019) it was shown that it was considerably divergent from the genera Channa and Parachanna under a cox1 analysis. Further work has shown  conclusively that the genus and its two known species are so divergent as to require a new Family to contain them - Aenigmachannidae Britz, Dahanukar, Anoop, Philip, Clark, Raghavan and Ruber 2020. A COI sequence shows a 12.3% distance bewtween A. mahabali and the only other species in the genus A. gollum (Britz et al. 2019) This is not surprising given the distance between type localities (over 200km), and the presence of a major biogeographic barrier, the Palghat Gap, between them.

Biological Notes

The title of the paper containing the original decscription of this species states that the species is troglophilic. This term is used for animals which are found in both epigean (surface) and hypogean (subterranean) habitats and are equally able to live successfully in both (Trajano and Carvalho 2017) . Since this species is currently known from a single specimen taken from a hypogean habitat its presence in epigean waters is currently unknown. Therefore any assesment as to whether is is troglophilic is premature. The animal does not appear, from photographs in the paper and videos (see below for links), to be even slightly troglomorphic despite it being described as such in the Introduction to the paper. Its present status should be currently be considered as unconfirmed.

Conservation Status


Internet Resources

Zoobank registration

Video 1  Rahul Kumar

Video 2  Rahul Kumar

National Geographic article about the new Family

Key References

Biju, S.D. and Bossuyt, F. Journal Article 2003 New frog family from India reveals an ancient biogeographical link with the Seychelles
Bossuyt, F., Meegaskumbura, M., Beenaerts, N., Gower, D.J., Pethiyagoda, R., Roelants, K., Mannaert, A., Wilkinson, M., Bahir, M.M., Manamendra-Arachchi, K., Ng, P.K.L., Schneider, C.K., Oommen, O.V. and Milinkovitch, M.C. Journal Article 2004 Local endemism within the Western Ghats-Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot
Roelants, K., Jiang, J. and Bossuyt, F. Journal Article 2004 Endemic ranid (Amphibia: Anura) genera in southern mountain ranges of the Indian subcontinent represent ancient frog lineages: evidence from molecular data
Gunawardene, N.R. et al. Journal Article 2007 A brief overview of the Western Ghats-Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot
Conte-Grand, C., Britz, R., Dahanukar, N., Raghavan, R., Pethiyagoda, R., Tan, H.H., Hadiaty, R.K., Yaakob, N.S. and Ruber, L. Journal Article 2017 Barcoding snakeheads (Teleostei, Channidae) revisited: Discovering greater species diversity and resolving perpetuated taxonomic confusions
Rüber, L., Tan, H.H. and Britz, R. Journal Article 2019 Snakehead (Teleostei: Channidae) diversity and the Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot
Anoop, V.K., Britz, R., Arjun, C.P., Dahanukar, N. and Raghavan, R. Journal Article 2019 Pangio bhujia, a new, peculiar species of miniature subterranean eel loach lacking dorsal and pelvic fins from India (Teleostei: Cobitidae)
Kumar, R.G., Basheer, V.S. and Ravi, C. Journal Article 2019 Aenigmachanna mahabali, a new species of troglophilic snakehead (Pisces: Channidae) from Kerala, India
Britz, R., Anoop, V.K., Dahanukar, H. and Raghavan, R. Journal Article 2019 The subterranean Aenigmachanna gollum, a new genus and species of snakehead (Teleostei: Channidae) from Kerala, India
Britz, R., Dahanukar, N., Anoop, V.K., Philip, S., Clark, B., Raghavan, R. and Rüber, L. Journal Article 2020 Aenigmachannidae, a new family of snakehead fishes (Teleostei: Channoidei) from subterranean waters of South India
Sidharthan, A., Raghavan, R., Anoop, V.K., Philip. S. and Dahanukar, N. Journal Article 2020 Riddle on the riffle: Miocene diversification and biogeography of endemic mountain loaches in the Western Ghats Biodiversity Hotspot