As if swimming wasn’t already dangerous enough, an international team of researchers has identified a new genus of electric fish in the upper Mazaruni River in northern Guyana.
The Akawaio penak is a thin, eel-like fish capable of producing a mild electric field that it uses to navigate, detect objects around it and communicate with other electric fish. It’s a handy talent, scientists say, because the river in which the fish lives is extremely murky.
Researchers with the University of Toronto Scarsborough used tissue samples to sequence the fish’s DNA and reconstruct its evolutionary tree. In so doing, they discovered that the Akawaio penak is so distinct that it represents a new genus. It was named for the indigenous people who populate the region.
The upper Mazaruni River is a remarkable example of biological diversity, researchers report, but has been largely unexplored because it is so remote.
Photo: University of Toronto