News & New Species

Oxynoemacheilus shehabi

A new species of freshwater fish

Murdered Syrian zoologist honored - new creek bream from Syria described.

A new species of fish has been named after one of Syria's most renowned zoologists, who was viciously shot by a sniper in the bloody conflicts in Syria on 2/16/15: Dr. Adwan Shehab. Born in 1967, he studied at Damascus University and graduated in 1999. He left behind his wife and four children. After ten years of war in Syria, destruction, hunger and suffering continue. The senselessness is evident on the one hand in the death of Shehab, whose international scientific expertise was simply wiped out by his murder. At the same time, the entire tragedy of Syria is stunned, the tragedy of a country that is largely in rubble.

Incredibly many people have died since then and most people are living in poverty. In a way, naming this "little fish" after the great scientist who supported the fieldwork to collect the new species in 2008 will help ensure that the atrocities of this civil war are not forgotten. Recent news about violent riots in the Middle East remind us how privileged we are to be able to carry out our jobs and tasks safely and without fear.

Oxynoemacheilus shehabi was described as a new species of brook finch - freshwater fish - from the upper Orontes River in southern Syria. The identification was made both with the help of molecular genetic DNA traits and classical morphological comparisons. The geological history of the Orontes river is also reflected in its fish fauna today. The electricity, only about 240 km "long" flows through Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. Its course was influenced by strong tectonic activity in the northern Rift Valley, the Great African Trench in recent geological eras. This is an area where Arabian and Eurasian fauna elements can meet. So it is not surprising that new species of fish are still being discovered here, although one could assume that the fish fauna there would have to be well researched.

The Great African Trench extends from East Africa to Southwest Asia and was formed by breaking the Arabian continental plate from the African plate over the past 35 million years. This is exactly where the Orontes flows parallel to the Mediterranean. For example, the city of Antioch is located about 30 km inland from the Mediterranean Sea on the shore of the Orontes pretty much at the plate border between the Arabian and the Eurasian continental plate. When the Orontes river was temporarily connected to the Euphrates, the largest river in East Asia, both rivers were isolated from each other during the Pleistocene. The last connection with the Euphrates may have occurred during the early Holocene between the Orontes and the Qweik, a former tributary of the Euphrate. In addition, Orontes was phased by the Mediterranean river Ceyhan, with which he shares some faunistic elements as well as the neighboring rivers Seyhan and Göksu. In addition, various parts of the Orontes were once connected to the Mediterranean by rivers, which today flow isolated to the sea, such as the Nahr al-Kabir (South) and the Nahr Marquia.

This means that the entire freshwater fish fauna of the Orontes River can and must be explained by its special location and history. "It's not surprising that new findings are being discovered here again and again," explains Dr. Matthias Geiger from the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig - Leibniz - Institute for Animal Biodiversity in Bonn, adding: "When DNA sequences became available, it turned out that the creek breams from the upper Orontes, which were morphologically inconspicuous at first. were in need of a re-examination”. "Therefore, the aim of this study was to check whether the spurrows from the upper Orontes and neighboring catchment areas are more diverse than previously known," adds Dr. Jörg Freyhof, Ichthyologist at the Museum für Naturkunde Leibniz-Institut für Evolution-und Biodiversity Research (MFN) in Berlin. This is how the new species was discovered.

Which one:Oxynoemacheilus shehabi, a new nemacheilid loach from the upper Orontes in southern Syria (Teleostei: Nemacheilidae) Jörg Freyhof & Matthias Geiger, Zootaxa 4908 (4): 571–583, 2021 Zoology in the Middle East, 2015Vol. 61, No. 3, 294,

Photo: The new species Oxynoemacheilus shehabi, named after one of Syria's most renowned zoologists, shot by a sniper in the bloody conflicts in Syria: Dr. Adwan Shehab.The use of the photo is free of charge for reporting on the PM.Copyright: Dr. Jörg Freyhof

#science #ichthyology #fish #biodiversity #Syrien #forschungsmuseen