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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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Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.

 

Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

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Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR

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Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

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RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be locked down, he said.

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