Aenigmachannidae, a new family of snakehead fishes (Teleostei: Channoidei) from subterranean waters of South India

Britz, Ralf; Dahanukar, Neelesh; Anoop, V. K.; Philip, Siby; Clark, Brett; Raghavan, Rajeev; Rüber, Lukas (2020). Aenigmachannidae, a new family of snakehead fishes (Teleostei: Channoidei) from subterranean waters of South India. Scientific reports, 10(1) Springer Nature 10.1038/s41598-020-73129-6

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Pronounced organism-wide morphological stasis in evolution has resulted in taxa with unusually high numbers of primitive characters. These ‘living fossils’ hold a prominent role for our understanding of the diversification of the group in question. Here we provide the first detailed osteological analysis of Aenigmachanna gollum based on high-resolution nano-CT scans and one cleared and stained specimen of this recently described snakehead fish from subterranean waters of Kerala in South India. In addition to a number of derived and unique features, Aenigmachanna has several characters that
exhibit putatively primitive conditions not encountered in the family Channidae. Our morphological analysis provides evidence for the phylogenetic position of Aenigmachanna as the sister group to Channidae. Molecular analyses further emphasize the uniqueness of Aenigmachanna and indicate that it is a separate lineage of snakeheads, estimated to have split from its sister group at least 34 or 109 million years ago depending on the fossil calibration employed. This may indicate that Aenigmachanna is a Gondwanan lineage, which has survived break-up of the supercontinent, with India separating from Africa at around 120 mya. The surprising morphological disparity of Aenigmachanna from
members of the Channidae lead us to erect a new family of snakehead fishes, Aenigmachannidae, sister group to Channidae, to accommodate these unique snakehead fishes.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE)

UniBE Contributor:

Rüber, Lukas


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology




Springer Nature




Marcel Häsler

Date Deposited:

01 Oct 2020 11:21

Last Modified:

01 Oct 2020 11:21

Publisher DOI:





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