Protocobitis typhlops

Yang and Chen 1993

CypriniformesCobitoidei Cobitidae


The name appeared first in Yang and Chen 1993:125 (see Kottelat and Bréhier 1999:358 for information on publication and for designation of lectotypes). Also appeared in Yang, Chen and Lan 1994:93. See also Kottelat (2012:41) and Lan et al. (2013).






None of the specimens mentioned in Yang and Chen and (1993) are proposed as holotype so all are syntypes. Kottelat and Brehier (1999) clarify the taxonomic status of this species by erecting  lectotypes:

Lectotype: KIZ 9180001, 54mm SL

Paralectotypes: KIZ 9180002-7


Known only from the type locality: A limestone cave at the town of Xiaao, Duan County, Guangxi Province, China (24o15'N, 107o05'E). This is also the type locailty of the stygophilic fish Sinocyclocheilus macrophthalmus (Romero et al. 2009, Zhao et al. 2021:246-247).


Little detail known. The cave is at the centre of a c. 10000m2 depression which drains internally. The pool in which the fishes were collected is only 12m into cave which is reported to be extensive. No other specimens were taken from other locations in the system. The pool is very clear and still with a rocky substrate. This is clearly only a peripheral part of the real habitat.


The practice of erecting new genera for cave fishes is now generally not supported. However this animal is sufficiently apomorphic that it requires a new genus to contain it. This species is most closely related to Cobitis sinensis and Cobitis arenae, both of which live in the Xijiang drainage area (Yang and Chen 1993).

Biological Notes

This species coexists in the same habitat with at least Troglonectes translucens and Sinocyclocheilus marcrophthalmus. For the latter of these two it is also the type locality (Romero et al. 2009, Zhao et al. 2021:246-247).

Fenolio (2016:192) says of this species: "Protocobitis typhlops, demonstrates extreme troglomorphy. It has very little pigment, and its eyes have degenerated to a point where they cannot be seen. This species, endemic to Guangxi, China, is known only from a very small range and is threatened by development and other human activities. The pectoral and pelvic fins often carry cave sediments on them. The loach uses its fins as makeshift “feet” and crawls along the bottom of cave waterways in the sediments.”

Conservation Status

TLO MuG [VU D2:2.3:1996]

(Kottelat, M. 1996. Protocobitis typhlops. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 1996: Downloaded on 07 July 2017).

Museum Holdings

As above only.

Key References

Yang, J.-X. and Chen, Y.-R. Conference Paper 1993 The cavefishes from Duan, Guangxi, China with comments on their adaptations to cave habits
Yang, J.X., Chen, Y.R. and Lan, J.H. Journal Article 1994 Protocobitis typhlops, a new genus and species of cave loach from China
Zhu, Y., Lü, Y.-J., Yang, J.-X. and Zhang, S. Journal Article 2008 A new blind underground species of the genus Protocobitis (Cobitidae) from Guangxi, China
Zhao, Y.H. and Zhang, C.G. Book 2009 Endemic fishes of Sinocyclocheilus (Cypriniformes: Cyprinidae) in China - Species diversity, cave adaptation, systematics and zoogeography
Romero, A., Zhao, Y.H. and Chen, X.Y. Journal Article 2009 The hypogean fishes of China
Zhao, Y.H., Gozlan, R.E. and Zhang, C.G. Journal Article 2011 Out of sight out of mind: current knowledge of Chinese cave fishes
Kottelat, M. Journal Article 2012 Conspectus cobitidum: An inventory of the loaches of the world (Teleostei: Cypriniformes: Cobitoidei)
Lan, J.H., Gan, X., Wu, T.J. and Yang, J. Book Section 2013 Genus Protocobitis
Lan, J.H., Gan, X., Wu, T.J. and Yang, J. Book Section 2013 Protocobitis typhlops Yang and Chen 1993
Lan, J.H. Book Section 2013 Protocobitis anteroventris Lan sp. nov.
Lan, J.H., Gan, X., Wu, T.J. and Yang, J. Book Section 2013 Protocobitis polylepis Zhu, Lu, Yang and Zhang 2008
Lan, J.H., Gan, X., Wu, T.J. and Yang, J. Book 2013 Cave fishes of Guangxi, China
Fenolio, D.B., Zhao, Y., Niemiller, M.L. and Stout, J.F. Journal Article 2013 In-situ observations of seven enigmatic cave loaches and one cave barbel from Guangxi, China, with notes on conservation status
Fenolio, D.B. Book 2016 Life in the dark. Illuminating biodiversity in the shadowy haunts of Planet Earth
Zhang, C.G. and Zhou, Y.H. Book 2016 Species diversity and distribution of inland fishes in China
Zhang, P., Huang, P., Wu, T., Huand, X., Zhang, Y. and Liu, Z. Journal Article 2019 Checklist, distribution and conservation of typical cavefish in China
Ma, L., Zhao, Y. and Yang, J.-X. Book Section 2019 Cavefish of China
Zhao, Y., Zhang, C. and Proudlove, G.S. Book 2021 Fishes of the Genus Sinocyclocheilus (Cypriniformes: Cyprinidae) in China. Systematics, biology, biogeography and cave adaptation