Journal Article

Iraqi endemic cave fish on the very edge: Typhlogarra widdowsoni and Caecocypris basimi

Al-Sheikhly, O.F. and Freyhof, J.

Record Number:
5488
Year:
2013
Journal:
Saving freshwater fishes and habitats. Newsletter of the Freshwater Fish Specialist Group
Pages:
7
Volume:
1
Abstract:
The Sheik Hadid Shrine sinkhole, near Haditha Township in the western bank of Euphrates River in the western desert of Anbar province, holds two endemic species of troglomorphic cyprinids, Typhlogarra widdowsoni and Caecocypris basimi. The Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin and the Department of Biology at the University of Baghdad have conducted a short field survey to determine (for the first time in 30 years) the status of these two species in Anbar province in western Iraq. The team’s findings were quite discouraging. There had been once two places with water around Haditha from where cave fishes have been recorded: Sheik Hadid Shrine sinkhole N 34°10’57.71” E 42°22’11.80” and Haqlaniya valley E 34° 5’28.32” E 42°21’56.30”. Locals even reported that there had been once seven additional places. Now, all but one, Sheik Hadid Shrine sinkhole have been found to be dry. The situation of Sheik Hadid Shrine sinkhole is evidently deteriorating. The water is over-abstracted from the sinkhole by local farmers for irrigation and other direct use by locals in settlements nearby. To prevent access the local authority of Haditha constructed a concrete cover over the sinkhole opening sometime between 2007 and 2009. Locals report that the water level at the sinkhole is substantially reduced compared with the earlier situation. This is very likely to negatively impact on the environmentally sensitive blind fish populations dwelling in the area of the sinkhole. At this locality only Typhlogarra exist, according to our own recent observations and those of local informants. No specimens from the enigmatic endemic genus Caecocypris have been seen recently. Furthermore, Typhlogarra are now quite rare. They had previously been very abundant in the sinkhole based on the last survey of 30 years ago. From the inaccessibility of the subterranean environment it is difficult to determine absolute population numbers; and whether or not both species are still present in other places in the underground karst system. Nonetheless, the situation is clearly far worse than that reported earlier. On the basis of available information, both species must now be categorised as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Times Cited:
2
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