Caecocypris basimi

Banister and Bunni 1980

Caecocypris basimi
Redrawn by Rhian Kendall from Banister and Bunni (1980)






Holotype: BMNH 1979.8.3:1 mature female 49mm SL. Paratypes: BMNH 1979.8.3:2-9, 7.9mm, 22mm, 24mm, 27mm, 30mm, 30.5mm, 31mm, 36mm SL respectively.

This species is the type-species by monotypy of the cave-restricted genus Caecocypris.


Type locality: Sheik Hadid Shrine sinkhole, near to the Sheik Hadid Shrine, 500m west of the Euphrates on the northern outskirts of the town of Haditha (N 34°10’57.71” E 42°22’11.80”), Iraq. This is also the type locality of Garra widdowsoni and the two species coexist.


Nothing known. The collection locality is simply a small window into the local phreas.


Despite a thorough search among cyprinid fishes Banister and Bunni (1980) were unable to discover any species, or genera, closely related to C. basimi. Barbopsis devecchii is similar in many ways but this appears to be due to parallelism. The species is phylogenetically isolated. Howes (1991) could not place this species in any known lineage. In a thorough phylogenetic classification of the Cypriniformes Tan and Armbruster (2018) placed Caecocypris as incertae sedis within Cyprinidae as they were unable to determine the subfamily into which to place it.

Frehof, Kaya and Ali (2021) make the following comments:

"Caecocypris basimi Banister and Bunni, 1980, Distribution in the area. Endemic. Groundwater layer near Haditha in the Iraqi Euphrates drainage.
Taxonomic notes. While no fresh material of Caecocypris is available to allow a sound study on its phylogenetic position, it is superficially similar to Mesopotamichthys by lacking barbels and having very large scales. If rediscovered,
it might turn out to be a species of Mesopotamichthys.
Remarks. This species seems not to have been found since the collection of the original materials and might be extinct."

Conservation Status

MG TLO [CR (Possibly EX) B1ab(i,ii,iii,iv,v):3.1:2014]

(Freyhof, J. 2014. Caecocypris basimi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: Downloaded on 04 July 2017). R (IUCN 1990), R (IUCN 1993), VU D2 (IUCN 1996, 2000).

This fish is known from a groundwater layer near Haditha (west Iraq), accessible through a well about 3 m below Shaikh Hadeed. Water abstraction from the well itself seems to be the major threat. In addition reduced groundwater levels due to water abstraction and hydrological modifications of the water layers by the construction of a large dam close by at the Euphrates may have negatively impacted the site.

The last records of this species were from the type material in 1983; a recent comprehensive survey of the site for the species in 2012 did not find it. Its extent of occurrence (EOO) is unknown (as it is a subterranean species), but is suspected to be less than 100 km². The species is known from only one location (based on major threat of water abstraction). The species is assessed as Critically Endangered, Possibly Extinct.

This species may be more widespread in the underground karst system than currently known; however it has not appeared in surveys of other wells connected to the same aquifer and another species (Garra widdowsoni), also endemic to the same karst system, has also declined significantly. (See Al-Sheikhly and Freyhof 2013).

Museum Holdings

As above plus: BMNH 1979.8.3:10 (Alizarin preparation).

Key References

Banister, K.E. and Bunni, M.K. Journal Article 1980 A new blind cyprinid fish from Iraq
Howes, G. J. Book Section 1991 Systematics and biogeography: an overview
Juberthie, C. and Decu, V. Book Section 2001 Irak
Al-Sheikhly, O.F. and Freyhof, J. Journal Article 2013 Iraqi endemic cave fish on the very edge: Typhlogarra widdowsoni and Caecocypris basimi
Freyhof, J., Kaya, C. and Ali, A. Book Section 2021 A critical checklist of the inland fishes native to the Euphrates and Tigris drainages
Ciçek, E., Jawad, L., Eagderi, S., Esmaeili, H.R., Mouludi-saleh, A., Sungur, S. and Fricke, R. Journal Article 2023 Freshwater fishes of Iraq: a revised and updated annotated checklist—2023