Zorro, the new Latin American fish species, takes off the mask to show its true identity

March 8, 2016
A male Myloplus zorroi, the new species from Rio Madeira Basin, Brazil. Credit: Douglas Bastos

Unidentified since its discovery in 2007, a large fish species from Amazonia has failed to give out enough information about itself, leaving only insufficient hints about its genus. Nevertheless, three scientists have now recovered the missing pieces to puzzle out its mysterious identity. In their study, published in the open-access journal ZooKeys, they describe the fish as a new species and name it after the fictional secretive Latin American character Zorro.

The new , called Myloplus zorroi, is commonly known among the Brazilians as 'pacu' and is a relative to the piranha. The research team, led by Marcelo C. Andrade, Universidade Federal do Para, Brazil, recognised in a fish, collected by sport fishermen from Rio Madeira basin, Brazil, a previously found, yet undescribed . Following their analysis, it turned out that its discoverers had assumed an incorrect genus for it.

Among the distinctive features of the new fish, which helped its rightful placement, are its characteristic teeth, specialised to crush seeds.

The new pacu species is quite large, growing up to 47,5 cm. It dwells in moderately to rapidly flowing clear rivers, running over rocky or sandy bottoms, and ranging from about 2 to 8 metres in depth. Its basis colour is reddish silver with darker markings running along the upper side of the body. The head is dark and the belly—pale yellow.

Curiously enough, although the name of the new fish is chosen as a tribute to Mauricio Camargo-Zorro, a researcher at the www.ifsp.edu.br Instituto Federal de Educacao, Ciencia e Tecnologia, in recognition of his invaluable contribution to the fish fauna inventory from the Marmelos Conservation Area, zorroi is also a playful reference to the Latin American fictional character Don Diego de la Vega and his secret identity hidden behind the nickname of Zorro.

Explore further: Two whale sharks and their 22-year annual pilgrimage

More information: Marcelo C. Andrade et al. A new large species of Myloplus (Characiformes, Serrasalmidae) from the Rio Madeira basin, Brazil, ZooKeys (2016). DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.571.5983

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