Oct 14, 2020: The Snakehead Gollum discovered in Kerala last year is not only unique for its delicate scale like fins but has also turned out to be a living fossil.
A recent study conducted by scientists in Kerala have found that the Snakehead Gollum is different from the rest of its fellow Snakehead fish, that it has its own family called Aenigmachanna. The family name is taken from the epic fantasy novel by British author JRR Tolkien, The Lord of The Rings where it was used for a cave-dwelling character.
This unique fish was studied by scientists from India, Germany, the United Kingdom and Switzerland and the findings were published in Scientific Reports on September 30, 2020.
The Snakehead Gollum dwells in the dark groundwaters and hence remains isolated from the rest of the world. However, they came under spotlight after the devastating floods of Kerala in 2018 and were studied by the scientists.
After a molecular analysis of the snakehead fish, it was discovered that they exhibit a uniqueness of Aenigmachanna and indicate that it is a separate lineage of snakeheads. It is estimated to have split from its sister group at least 34 or 109 million years ago depending on the fossil calibration employed.
The study says that the fish descended from an ancient gondwanan lineage that survived the break-up of the supercontinent and the northward drift of the Indian subcontinent about 100 million years ago.
The fish which remains mainly underground was hidden from the knowledge of mankind which is why their behaviour and characteristics did not evolve much over these hundred million years. Their preserved lifestyle has given the scientists an opportunity to understand prehistoric marine life.
The modern snakehead fishes are freshwater predators of medium to large size mostly found in West and Central Africa and large parts of Asia. Some of the snakehead fishes have become highly invasive outside of their native range and two species are now also found in the United States.