Sri Lankans name new fish genus for atheist Dawkins

Jul 16, 2012
This photo, received from Sri Lankan researcher Rohan Pethiyagoda, shows a Dawkinsia Singhala, a new genus of fish comprised of nine species that are found only in South Asia and are characterised by long filaments that trail from the dorsal fins of males.

Sri Lankan scientists have identified a new genus of fresh water fish and named it after the evolutionary biologist and renowned atheist Richard Dawkins.

Lead researcher Rohan Pethiyagoda, 56, said the new genus, named Dawkinsia, comprises nine species that are found only in South Asia and are characterised by long filaments that trail from the dorsal fins of males.

The fish has previously been classified under the genus Puntius, comprising around 120 species of small tropical fish known as barbs.

Pethiyagoda, an ichthyologist and internationally acclaimed conservationist, said extensive studies in India and Sri Lanka showed that the level of diversity among such fish was "much greater than previously suspected".

This was partly the reason that the study group had chosen to name the new genus after the 71-year-old Dawkins, the British author of the anti-religion polemic, "The God Delusion".

"Richard Dawkins has through his writings helped us understand that the universe is far more beautiful and awe-inspiring than any religion has imagined," Pethiyagoda told AFP on Monday.

"We hope that Dawkinsia will serve as a reminder of the elegance and simplicity of evolution, the only rational explanation there is for the unimaginable diversity of life on Earth," he said.

Male Dawkinsia barbs advertise their fitness by growing long fin filaments that make them more attractive to females but also dangerously conspicuous to predators.

"The filaments are rather like the peacock's tail, expensive ornaments that place their owner at greater risk while offering him the reward of being the preferred choice of females," Pethiyagoda said.

The genus re-classification followed an eight-year study of the DNA, bone structures and overall anatomy of Puntius species.

Last week a small crustacean parasite which feeds on fish in the Caribbean was named Gnathia marleyi after reggae musician Bob Marley.

"I named this species, which is truly a natural wonder, after Marley because of my respect and admiration for Marley's music," said Paul Sikkel, a field marine biologist at Arkansas State University.

Explore further: Chimpanzees prefer firm, stable beds

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Smallest eel-loach fish discovered

Feb 08, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The world's smallest species of eel-loach fish has been discovered by a Natural History Museum scientist and his colleague this month and is featured on the Museum's Species of the day today.

Female fish flaunt fins to attract a mate

Oct 08, 2010

For the first time, biologists have described the evolution of the size of a female trait which males use to choose a partner. The research, published in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology, shows ...

World's smallest frogs discovered in New Guinea

Dec 12, 2011

Field work by researcher Fred Kraus from Bishop Museum, Honolulu has found the world's smallest frogs in southeastern New Guinea. This also makes them the world's smallest tetrapods (non-fish vertebrates). ...

Recommended for you

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

7 hours ago

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

9 hours ago

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

10 hours ago

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Shootist
1 / 5 (3) Jul 16, 2012
Sri Lankan scientists have identified a new genus of fresh water fish and named it after the evolutionary biologist and renowned atheist Richard Dawkins.


Renowned? By whom?
Deathclock
5 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2012
Renowned? By whom?


Are you serious? Richard Dawkins is one of the foremost experts in the field of evolutionary biology...

More news stories

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...