HomePLANTS & ANIMALSECOLOGYScientists Discover New Species of Fish: Redtail Garra Found in Isolated River...

Scientists Discover New Species of Fish: Redtail Garra Found in Isolated River Basin

In a remarkable scientific breakthrough, researchers have unveiled the existence of a previously unknown species of fish known as the redtail garra.

This discovery has sent shockwaves through the scientific community and the aquarium trade industry, as the redtail garra has been a popular choice among fish enthusiasts for over two decades.

The revelation comes after years of diligent research and exploration in the remote border region between Thailand and Myanmar.

The redtail garra, scientifically named Garra panitvongi after renowned naturalist Nonn Panitvong, has long remained a mystery due to its limited distribution and the difficulty in accessing its natural habitat.

However, Larry Page, curator of ichthyology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, and his team of researchers recently made a groundbreaking expedition along the Kasat River, a tributary of the Ataran River, where they encountered several redtail garras.

Initial assumptions suggested that the redtail garra could be found throughout Myanmar, given its popularity in the aquarium trade.

Nevertheless, Page’s team discovered that this captivating species is actually confined to the Ataran River basin, painting a more precise picture of its natural habitat.

The redtail garra is a fascinating addition to the genus Garra, which boasts nearly 200 diverse species found across different continents.

Despite their widespread presence in various water bodies, remarkably little is known about the natural history and relationships within the genus.

Many Garra species have faces and snouts
Many Garra species have faces and snouts encrusted with barbed nodules called tubercles, which may be used to attract mates or to fend off adversaries. Credit: Tangjitjaroen et al. (2023), CC-BY

Page highlights the urgent need for further research and conservation efforts, emphasizing the scarcity of comprehensive studies on the diverse fish group.

These captivating fish, characterized by their elongated snout and striking red tails, are not only visually captivating but also play a crucial role in aquatic ecosystems.

Their unique adaptation of using their lower lip as an adhesive pad to cling to rocks while feeding has sparked intrigue among scientists.

Redtail garra primarily feed on algae and occasionally indulge in arthropods, which they skillfully scrape off rocks using their specialized mouth parts.

Due to their captivating appearance and their ability to efficiently clear away algae, redtail garras have become highly sought-after additions to aquarium tanks.

However, their late discovery as a scientifically described species highlights the pressing need to reevaluate biodiversity in understudied regions and acknowledge the importance of preserving their natural habitats.

Nonn Panitvong, celebrated as a biodiversity hero by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, played a crucial role in introducing the redtail garra to the aquarium trade.

His passion for nature, instilled in him during his childhood, inspired him to create the website Siamensis.org, where fellow enthusiasts could share knowledge and plan expeditions to Thailand’s wilderness areas.

Panitvong’s dedication to environmental science and his efforts in raising awareness about the country’s aquatic life have had a lasting impact.

His collaboration with Larry Page and their joint discovery of the redtail garra showcases the profound significance of bridging scientific knowledge with the public’s understanding of the natural world.

With each new species discovery, humanity gains a clearer perspective on our place within the grand tapestry of life.

As the dot of the redtail garra is added to the ever-expanding map of Earth’s biodiversity, we inch closer to comprehending the intricacies of our planet and the delicate balance that sustains all species.

The Redtail Garra: A Hidden Gem of Southeast Asia

The redtail garra, a newly discovered fish species, has emerged as a hidden gem in the realm of Southeast Asian biodiversity.

Researchers have unearthed this enigmatic creature, bringing it into the spotlight after years of obscurity.

With its vibrant colors, unique features, and captivating behavior, the redtail garra is poised to make a significant splash in both the scientific community and the aquarium trade industry.


Q1: What is the Redtail Garra?

The Redtail Garra (Garra panitvongi) is a newly discovered species of fish found in the Ataran River basin, which straddles the border between Thailand and Myanmar. It is known for its elongated snout, covered in tubercles, and its striking red tail.

Q2: Where is the Redtail Garra found?

The Redtail Garra is restricted to the Ataran River basin, a small stretch of river between Thailand and Myanmar. The locality is isolated and difficult to access, contributing to the species’ obscurity prior to its scientific description.

Q3: What is the natural habitat of the Redtail Garra?

Redtail Garras inhabit fast-moving waters, such as streams and rivers. They use a disclike structure formed from a modification of the lower lip to cling to rocks and maintain their position in the water column as they feed.

Q4: What do Redtail Garras eat?

Redtail Garras primarily feed on algae, using their specialized mouth parts to scrape detritus off rocks. They also consume occasional arthropods. Their unique adaptation to an algae-based diet and their ability to clear away algae make them valuable in aquarium tanks.

Q5: How does the Redtail Garra defend itself?

Redtail Garras possess a snout covered in tubercles, which they can raise or lower during combative encounters. These tubercles are used as weapons, suggesting aggressive behavior. The red coloration of their tails also serves as a signal to intimidate opponents.

Q6: Who discovered the Redtail Garra?

Larry Page, curator of ichthyology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, and his team of researchers discovered the Redtail Garra during their fieldwork along the Kasat River, a tributary of the Ataran River. The species was officially described and named after Nonn Panitvong, a renowned naturalist and advocate for Thailand’s aquatic life.

Q7: How can the discovery of the Redtail Garra contribute to our understanding of biodiversity?

The late discovery and naming of the Redtail Garra highlight the need for comprehensive studies on biodiversity in Southeast Asia. It underscores the importance of recognizing and preserving the diverse species within the region and the urgent need for conservation efforts.

Q8: What is the role of Nonn Panitvong in the discovery of the Redtail Garra?

Nonn Panitvong, a respected naturalist and businessman, played a vital role in introducing the Redtail Garra to the aquarium trade. His dedication to environmental science, passion for nature, and efforts to raise awareness about Thailand’s aquatic life contributed significantly to the discovery and conservation of the species.

More information: Zootaxa (2023). DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.5311.3.3


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