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Researchers discover new variant of Sri Lankan aquarium fish

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by Ifham Nizam

A new variant of a popular Sri Lankan aquarium fish has been discovered by local and foreign researchers.

The freshwater fish, genus Rasbora, (commonly called ‘dandiya’) is one of the most diverse groups of freshwater fishes in tropical Asia.

In Sri Lanka, previous studies have shown that there are five species (Rasbora dandia, R. microcephalus, R. wilpita, R. naggsi, and R. armitagei) of which the last three are endemic to the island. This diversity is remarkable when compared with peninsular India, which is about 25 times the size of Sri Lanka but contain only four species of Rasbora.

Biologists earlier believed there were only five varieties of the popular aquarium fish endemic to Sri Lanka. However, with the discovery of the sixth species, Rasbora has gained a new reputation among Sri Lankan freshwater fish breeders, hobbyists and harvesters.

The researchers carried out multiple analysis using “finer geographic sampling and greater sample sizes”, thereby corroborating the validity of six species of Rasbora (scientifically called as ‘Cyprinidae’) in Sri Lanka.

The team of researchers have combed a sampling of 90 sites across Sri Lanka to identify the new species. The team consisting of Hiranya Sudasinghe of Evolutionary Ecology and Systematics Lab, Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Peradeniya, Rohan Pethiyagoda of Ichthyology Section, Australian Museum, Sydney, NSW, Australia, Ranasinghe Hettiarachchige Tharindu Ranasinghe of Butterfly Conservation Society of Sri Lanka, Malwana, Rajeev Raghavan of Department of Fisheries Resource Management, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS), Kochi, India, Neelesh Dahanukar of Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune, India and Madhava Meegaskumbura of Guangxi Key Laboratory of Forest Ecology & Conservation, College of Forestry, Guangxi University, Nanning, China.

Sudasinghe told The Sunday Island that more extensive sampling of Rasbora in India, and analysis based on multiple markers may reveal “a more complex phylogenetic topology” (diversity).

“The Sri Lankan diversification derives from a common ancestor which arrived from India during a sea-level low-stand in the mid-Miocene (15.1 Ma [95% HPD: 11.5–19.8 Ma]), when the present-day island was sub aerially connected to the Indian subcontinent by a broad isthmus”, he added.

Rasbora is generally believed to have arrived in the island from the Indian sub-continent centuries ago when Sri Lanka stood geographically merged with India.  In the latest study, researchers confirm this belief.

“Our analysis suggest that Sri Lankan Rasbora derive from a Mid Miocene, India to Sri Lanka dispersal”, he noted, and added that Sri Lankan Rasbora diversity is higher than that of the Indian peninsula.

The Sri Lankan diversity of Rasbora provides an opportunity to understand the evolutionary and phylogenetic relationships of freshwater fishes in the island. Understanding the bio geography, phylogenetic and the evolutionary relationships of species are pivotal in formulating effective assessments of the conservation status of species as well as to draw up species conservation management plans.

However, such studies are still at very early stages when it comes to the freshwater fishes in Sri Lanka.

The first-ever molecular phylogeny of Sri Lankan Rasbora and reassess the taxonomic identities of the five species of Sri Lankan Rasbora based on an island-wide survey. In this study, based on molecular, morphological and statistical analyses using finer geographic sampling, validate the five putative species of Rasbora previously recognized in Sri Lanka.

In addition, a new species of Rasbora was discovered from eastern Sri Lanka. This new species was named Rasbora adisi. The species name “adisi” means mysterious or enigmatic in Sinhala: an allusion to the cryptic nature of this species.

The new species is found in eastern basins in Sri Lanka such as Gal Oya, Menik River and Kumbukkan River and show the closest resemblance to Rasbora naggsi. However, the new species is different from R. naggsi by a combination of morphological characters in addition to been genetically distinct.

 



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Appointment of GM led to CEB chief’s resignation?

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By Ifham Nizam

Amidst further deterioration of the power crisis, the Chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) M.M.C. Ferdinando has tendered his resignation to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

In a letter to the President, the Attorney-at-Law said that he is quitting due to personal reasons. Ferdinando will resign as Chairman/Member of the Electricity Board with effect from Feb. 1.

Sources close to Ferdinando said that the incumbent CEB Chairman did not want to be in that position following the appointment of Eng. Dr. D.C.R. Abeysekera as CEB General Manager. Abeysekera received his letter of appointment from Ferdinando on Tuesday (25).

Abeysekera received the appointment at the expense of Dr. Susantha Perera, whose designation as the GM on a temporary basis was resisted by the engineers’ union as he is a retiree.

Retired public servant Ferdinando was brought in as the CEB Chairman on July 19, last year soon after Sri Lanka entered into what was called a framework agreement with the US energy firm, New Fortress Energy. The agreement now challenged in the Supreme Court was finalised on 17 Sept, last year with Ferdinando endorsing it as an Advisor to the Finance Ministry.

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UK indicates sanctions against Lanka military

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By Shamindra Ferdinnado

Close on the heels of UK Foreign Minister Lord Tariq Ahmad’s three-day visit here, the House of Commons has been told that measures were being contemplated as regards the Sri Lankan military.

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Minister Amanda Milling has told Parliament that the government regularly engaged with the US and other partners on issues relating to Sri Lanka. She has further said: “The UK government keeps all evidence and potential designations under the UK Global Human Rights sanctions regime under close review, guided by the objectives of the sanctions regime. We would not normally speculate about future sanctions targets, as to do so could reduce their impact.”

The Conservative Party member was responding to Labour Party’s Siobhain McDonagh on Tuesday (25). MP Milling was responding to a query McDonagh posed to the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Elizabeth Truss, what assessment she has made of the implications for her policies of the sanctions imposed by the US on General Shavendra Silva of the Sri Lankan army.

The US in Feb 2020 imposed a travel ban on General Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). Recently, the US extended its action against the Sri Lankan military by issuing travel ban on retired Maj. Gen. Udaya Perera.

The UK based Global Tamil Forum (GTF) has commended the British stand.

Concerned Lankan military sources said that the UK in its capacity as the leader of Sri Lanka Core Group at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was planning further measures ahead of the next human rights sessions.

UK based sources told The Island that that type of written parliamentary question was usually answered by a government minister from the FCDO.

Sources explained as this particular question dealt with Sri Lanka, the minister responsible was Lord Tariq Ahmad, but as he represented the House of Lords he couldn’t make statements in the Commons chamber.

Sources added that it would be rare that a question on Sri Lanka would be directly responded to by the Foreign Secretary Truss

Commons member Amanda Milling is Minister of State for Asia, therefore her portfolio closely matches Tariq Ahmad’s brief.

Incidentally, the FCDO now has a British Tamil in a senior position. Maya Sivagnanam is South Asia Deputy Director for the Indian Ocean Region at the FCDO.

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JCPSM token strike cripples hospitals in Western Province

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Strikers want Health Ministry to solve their problems within 10 days

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Joint Council of Professions Supplementary to Medicine (JCPSM) launched a 24-hour token strike yesterday (26) at 7 am at all hospitals in the Western Province. It consists of 16 unions.

The JCPSM has urged the government to address its members’s grievances including salary anomalies and issues related promotions. The strike had crippled hospitals in the province, Health Ministry sources said.

The JCPSM said emergency care, essential services and the treatment of COVID patients had not been affected by the strike.

President of the Government Nurses’ Association and former UNP National List MP Saman Rathnapriya said they had been urging the government to solve their problems for the past two months.

The College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) President, Ravi Kumudesh told The Island that they would end the token strike by 7 am today m(27) and thereafter give the government 10 days to address their demands.

“We will launch a continuous strike if the demands are not met within 10 days,” he said.

President of the Government Medical Officers’ Forum (GMOF) Dr. Rukshan Bellana said that most unions seemed to have lost the ability to solve disputes through negotiations.

“The unions have become too politicised, and the people are suffering as a result.”

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