Troglocobitis starostini

(Parin 1983)

Troglocobitis starostini
Redrawn by Rhian Kendall from Parin (1983)
CypriniformesCobitoidei Nemacheilidae


Noemacheilus starostini  Parin 1983

Nemacheilus starostini  Parin 1983

Generic name misspelt Nemachilus by Pereladov (1989).




Holotype: ZISP 46159 49.5mm SL. Paratypes: ZISP 46160 3 specimens 36.7mm, 43.6mm, and 47.6mm SL. ZISP (no reference number) 44.2mm SL. ZMMU P16030 and P16031 56.8mm and 61.0mm SL. This species is the type species by monotypy of the subgenus Troglocobitis.


Known only from the type locality: Provull gypsum Cave, 45 km from the railway station at Tcharchanga and 60 km from the town of Gaourdak, in the mountainous area of Kugitangtau, Turkmenistan (c.40oN, 60oE). Despite a search of other similar sites in the same area Smirnov (1983) did not find any other locations for this species. Provull Cave is about 5 km SW of the Cupp-Coutunn Cave in a gypsum karst.


Collected "in a karst collapse which opened in a region of subterraneous water flow” (Parin 1983), December water temperature 24oC (Smirnov 1983). The animals live in a lake within a gypsum cave and feed on a bacterial film on the surface of organic silt and/or on insect larvae and small Crustacea. This area is under the roosts of birds and bats. The fishes move about within the lake from depths of 4-5m down to at least 58m (Pereladov 1989). In May the water temperature was 19-20oC and the females were full of ripe eggs.                                                                                                                                             


Sufficiently distinct to merit erection of the subgenus Troglocobitis to contain it. Nalbant and Linares (1987) placed this species in the genus Paracobitis (retaining the subgenus Troglocobitis) but without giving their reasons. This was followed in the review paper of Decu et al. (2019). Eschmeyer's Catalogue of Fishes (Fricke et al. 2019) and the authoritative summary of world Cobitoidei (Kottelat 2012) both retain Troglocobitis and this is followed here.

According to the detailed phylogenetic study of Prokofiev (2010) Troglocobitis is sister genus to Paracobitis and both of these together are sister to Iskandaria Prokofiev 2009. All three genera are inluded in the tribe Nemacheilini within the subfamily Nemacheilinae.

Although the formal description of the species was published by Parin (1983) the name is available from Parin and  Dolzhanskij (1982).

Biological Notes

The food supply in the cave might result from chemoautotrophic production as well as imported from outside.

Conservation Status

MG TLO [VU D2:2.3:2000]

(Birstein, V. 2000. Nemacheilus starostini. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2000: Downloaded on 14 July 2017). R (IUCN 1990), R (IUCN 1993), DD (IUCN 1996).

As long ago as 1996 Maltsev (1996) reported the following: "The Provull cave, residence of the troglobitic loach (a unique troglobitic fish), is polluted. In spite of all the efforts for its conservation, declared by the Turkmenistan government, a new sheep farm was located nearby, and this spring several tons of sheep feces were moved by a mudflow into the entrance. It’s still unknown whether the blind loaches survived after it." So the current conservation status may be considerably worse than VU D2.

Museum Holdings

Four other specimens in addition to the type series, probably at IOAS.

Internet Resources

Fishbase with photograph

Key References

Parin, N.V. and Dolzhanskij, V.Y Journal Article 1982 Noemacheilus starostini, the first blind cave fish for the fauna of the USSR
Parin, N.V. Journal Article 1983 Noemacheilus (troglocobitis) starostini sp. n. (Osteichthyes,Cobitidae) Novaya slepay a ryba iz podzemnykh vod Kuritangtau (Turkmeniya) [Noemacheilus (Troglocobitis) starostini sp. n. (Osteichthyes, Cobitidae) a new blind fish from subterranean waters of
Smirnov, S. Journal Article 1983 A blind cave loach from south-western Asia, Noemacheilus starostini Parin
Zalesskaya, N.T. and Golovatch, S.I. Book Section 1989 The condition of biospeleology in the USSR
Pereladov, M. Journal Article 1989 Some aspects of disrtibution of fishes in the subaquatic caves near Kugitang-Tau Mountains
Zalesskaja, N.T. Journal Article 1989 On the progres in Soviet biospeleology in the 1980s
Maltsev, V.A. and Self, C.A. Journal Article 1992 Cupp-Coutunn cave system, Turkmenia, Central Asia
Maltsev, V.A. Journal Article 1996 News in the Kugitangtou caves exploration
Maltsev, V. and Korshunov, V. Journal Article 1998 Geochemistry of fluorite and related features of the Kugitangtou Ridge Caves, Turkmenistan
Salnikov, V.B. Book Section 2006 Ichthyofauna of the Kugitang reservoirs
Kolvoort, I. and Kolvoort, W. Journal Article 2008 Blindganger in de onderwaterwerelo
Prokofiev, A.M. Journal Article 2009 Problems of the classification and phylogeny of nemacheiline loaches of the group lacking the preethmoid I (Cypriniformes: Balitoridae: Nemacheilinae)
Prokofiev, A.M. Journal Article 2010 Morphological classification of loaches (Nemacheilinae)
Kottelat, M. Journal Article 2012 Conspectus cobitidum: An inventory of the loaches of the world (Teleostei: Cypriniformes: Cobitoidei)
Decu, V., Juberthie, C., Iepure, S., Gheorghiu, V. and Nazareanu, G. Journal Article 2019 An overview on the subterranean fauna from central Asia