SAN FRANCISCO, July 10 (Xinhua) -- A team of researchers have named a new species of fish from the Orinoco River, one of the longest rivers in South America at 2,140 kilometers after Irish singer and songwriter Enya.
Leporinus enyae is a "beautiful little fish," said Michael Burns, a doctoral candidate at Oregon State University (OSU) and lead author on the paper describing the new species as well another from the Xingu River of Brazil published this week in the journal Neotropical Ichthyology.
In 1988, Enya released a lead single titled "Orinoco Flow" from her second studio album, which went on to become an international hit, earn a Grammy Award nomination, and help launch her wildly successful career.
"Whenever we were in the lab at Oregon State working on the fishes, Ben Frable would always play 'Orinoco Flow,'" said Burns, referring to another graduate student in the lab. "I heard the song so often in the lab it got stuck in my head," co-author Marcus Chatfield said. "Then I just started listening to it on purpose when I was taking measurements of the specimens. When the time came around for choosing names, it just felt right to name this new beautiful fish from the Orinoco after the artist who wrote that beautiful song."
The second newly discovered fish has been named Leporinus villasboasorum, in honor of the pioneering efforts of brothers Orlando, Claudio and Leonardo Villas-Boas a half-century ago to protect the Xingu River's biodiversity and the rights of indigenous peoples there.
The term Leporinus literally means "little hare," in reference to the large teeth that protrude from the mouth, much like those of a rabbit. The bottom teeth of the two new species are particularly long, and while no one is sure why, the researchers note that it may relate to their foraging on plants, worms and other invertebrates.
"We thought it would be fairly straightforward to look at populations of similar fishes from the Orinoco River basin in Venezuela, the Essequibo River of Guyana, and several of the tributaries of the Amazon River in Brazil and see if they are taxonomically the same or different," said co-author Brian Sidlauskas, the curator of fishes at OSU. "It turns out that there are at least two new distinct species, and there may be more."
Both new species are comparatively small -- about 8 to 10 inches, or 20 to 25 centimeters, long -- although some members of their family can reach two feet, or 60 centimeters, in length. Smaller species are sold as aquarium fish, though in the wild, these omnivores prefer moving water both for feeding and protection from predators.
To an outsider, the new fish species are not remarkably different from two previously established species. However, according to a news release from OSU on Monday, there are significant differences in body shape, coloration, scale counts and genetics. "The differences and divergence between the two new Leporinus species and the established ones may trace back several million years," Sidlauskas was quoted as saying.