Channa ara ( Deraniyagala, 1945 ),

Sudasinghe, Hiranya, Adamson, Eleanor A. S., Ranasinghe, R. H. Tharindu, Meegaskumbura, Madhava, Ikebe, Chiho & Britz, Ralf, 2020, Unexpected species diversity within Sri Lanka’s snakehead fishes of the Channa marulius group (Teleostei: Channidae), Zootaxa 4747 (1), pp. 113-132: 116-119

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Channa ara ( Deraniyagala, 1945 )


Channa ara ( Deraniyagala, 1945) 

(Figure 2,3)

Ophicephalus marulius ara: Deraniyagala, 1945: 95  ; Deraniyagala, 1952: 124 (in part)

Ophiocephalus marulius  (not Hamilton, 1822): Day, 1878: 363 (in part); Day, 1889: 360 (in part)

Ophicephalus marulius: Deraniyagala, 1929: 83  (in part)

Channa marulius: Pethiyagoda, 1991: 279  (in part); Talwar & Jhingran, 1991: 1017 (in part); Courtenay & Williams, 2004: 83 (in part); Chaudhry, 2010 (in part); Kottelat, 2013: 461 (in part)

Channa ara: Pethiyagoda, 2006  (in part)

Diagnosis. Channa ara  is distinguished from C. marulius  , C. aurolineata  and C. auroflammea  by possessing fewer vertebrae (56 vs 59–63 in C. marulius  ; 63–66 in C. aurolineata  ; 58–61 in C. auroflammea  ); fewer lateral-line scales (59–62 vs 62–65 in C. marulius  ; 65–71 in C. aurolineata  ; 61–65 in C. auroflammea  ); fewer dorsal-fin rays (47–48 vs 50–56 in C. marulius  ; 55–58 in C. aurolineata  ; 52–54 in C. auroflammea  ); and fewer anal-fin rays (29–30 vs 32–37 in C. marulius  ; 35–38 in C. aurolineata  ; 33–36 in C. auroflammea  ). Further, C. ara  can be distinguished from C. aurolineata  and C. marulioides  by white spots along mid-lateral blotches faint or absent (vs series of black scales rimmed in white along the mid-lateral dark blotches) in live adults. In comparison to South Indian C. pseudomarulius  , C. ara  possesses more vertebrae (56 vs 55); and more circumpeduncular scales (26–28 vs 24). Channa ara  can be distinguished from C. cf. ara  from the southwestern wet zone of Sri Lanka by having more circumpeduncular scales (26–28 vs 22–24); by the absence / faintness of the numerous large white spots along the mid-lateral dark blotches (vs. presence of spots in C. cf. ara  ); and by bright orange colouration in between the mid-lateral series of dark brown blotches when live (vs white to yellow colouration) (see Figures 2–5View FIGURE 2View FIGURE 3View FIGURE 4View FIGURE 5).

Description. See Figures 2View FIGURE 2 and 3View FIGURE 3 for general appearance, and Tables 1 and 2 for morphometric and meristic data, respectively. Dorsal-fin rays 47 (1), or 48 (2). Anal-fin rays 29 (2), or 30 (1). Pectoral-fin rays 16. Lateral line scales 59 (1), 60 (1), or 62 (1) in total, 16 (1), 17 (1), or 18 (1) in pre-drop, 2 (1), or 3 (2) forming drop, 40 (1), or 41 (2) in post-drop. Predorsal scales 17 (2), or 18 (1). Scales above pre-drop 4.5 (2), or 5 (1), above post-drop 6.5 (1), 7 (1), or 7.5 (1), below post-drop 10 (2), or 11 (1). Circumpeduncular scales 26 (1) or 28 (2). Postorbital scales 10 (1), 11 (1), or 12 (1), with 7 (2), or 8 (1) scales in front of opercle; scales on opercle 3 (1), or 4 (2). Vertebrae 56 ( Fig. 6AView FIGURE 6).

Colouration in preservative. Shortly after preservation, adults> 300 mm SL ( Figure 2View FIGURE 2) with head and body greyish dorsolaterally, white ventrally. Dorsal, anal, and caudal fins black with scattered white spots. Pectoral fin dark brown, pelvic fin white. Series of 4–6 large black blotches on mid-lateral body under dorsal fin, separated by bright orange blotches. White spots on body inconspicuous or absent. Orange blotches on body fading to white during long-term preservation.

Colouration in life. Juveniles of about 80–100 mm SL ( Fig. 3AView FIGURE 3) dorsolaterally brown. A black band on side of body, originating at anterior margin of snout, extending to caudal-fin base and beyond, onto median rays of caudal fin. Light brown stripe extending from opercle to caudal-fin base, separating brown dorsal side and blackish ventral side of body. Head and body whitish cream ventrally. Caudal fin with an ocellus on dorsal half, formed by large black spherical spot rimmed by wide orange ring. Pectoral, pelvic and anal fins hyaline. Interradial membrane of dorsal fin with irregular pattern of black lines. Pupil outlined by yellowish orange rim, iris black with tinge of orange.

Adults> 500 mm SL ( Fig. 3BView FIGURE 3) greyish black dorso-laterally. Black blotches on mid-lateral body, separated by bright orange blotches, extending as a ventro-lateral band along head and body. White spots on head and body absent or indistinct. Ocellus on caudal fin absent. Pupil outlined by yellowish orange rim, iris orange. Dorsal, anal and caudal fins black with white spots. Pectoral fin brownish black; rays of pelvic fin darker than in smaller specimens.

Habitat, distribution and natural history. Channa ara  occurs primarily in the deep pools in the Mahaweli River and its tributaries. It has also been recorded from reservoirs in the Mahaweli catchment (Victoria and Randenigala: Fig. 1AView FIGURE 1). In June 2014, the first author observed around 20 juveniles of ~ 80–100 mm SL in shallow water (~ 60–80 cm deep), among submerged roots, close to the bank, at the mouth of a stream draining into Badulu Oya of the Mahaweli basin, they were guarded by a pair of adults. The highest elevation from which we have recorded C. ara  is at Kandy, about 500 m asl.

Molecular results. Three cox1 haplotypes were observed among Marulius group fishes collected in Sri Lanka, none of which have previously been observed in fishes collected in neighbouring continental regions. The three haplotypes correspond to Channa ara  from the Mahaweli Basin (H1, n =4), C. cf. ara  from the southwestern wet zone (H2, n =8), and C. marulius  from the northern dry zone (H3, n =1). The relationship of Sri Lankan haplotypes to C. marulius  haplotypes from continental regions ( India and Myanmar) is illustrated in Fig. 1BView FIGURE 1, with uncorrected pairwise genetic distances among all members of the Marulius group given in Table 3.

The Channa ara cox  1 haplotype differs from all [ C. marulius  + C. cf. ara  ] haplotypes by a minimum of 22 mutations, and is indeed marginally more genetically similar to continental C. marulius  (3.6–4.2%) and Sri Lankan C. cf. ara  (3.7%) than to Sri Lankan C. marulius  (4.6%), albeit the latter was only represented by a small sample size. The Sri Lankan C. marulius  differs from continental C. marulius  by 1.6–2.3%, doubling the known intraspecific genetic divergence at cox1 that was previously observed across this species’ large continental geographical distribution encompassing India and western Myanmar. In contrast, the Sri Lankan C. cf. ara  differs less from continental C. marulius  (uncorrected pairwise genetic distance of 1.0–1.6%) than it does from the C. marulius  that occurs on the same island, in Sri Lanka’s northern dry zone (2.0%).

With the exceptions of Channa marulius  and C. cf. ara  , C. ara  differs from all other species in the Marulius group by a minimum of 8% uncorrected pairwise genetic distance for cox1 ( Table 3).














Channa ara ( Deraniyagala, 1945 )

Sudasinghe, Hiranya, Adamson, Eleanor A. S., Ranasinghe, R. H. Tharindu, Meegaskumbura, Madhava, Ikebe, Chiho & Britz, Ralf 2020

Channa marulius: Pethiyagoda, 1991: 279

Kottelat, M. 2013: 461
Courtenay, W. R. & Williams, J. D. 2004: 83
Pethiyagoda, R. 1991: 279
Talwar, P. K. & Jhingran, A. G. 1991: 1017

Ophicephalus marulius ara: Deraniyagala, 1945: 95

Deraniyagala, P. E. P. 1952: 124
Deraniyagala, P. E. P. 1945: 95

Ophicephalus marulius: Deraniyagala, 1929: 83

Deraniyagala, P. E. P. 1929: 83

Ophiocephalus marulius

Day, F. 1889: 360
Day, F. 1878: 363