COLOMBO — Sri Lanka’s fast-flowing freshwater streams are home to a variety of beautiful fish, which, as a rule, swiftly swim away if you dip your feet into the water. But not so the welcoming “stone suckers” (Garra ceylonensis), renowned for their use in “fish spas,” where they nibble away at the dead skin cells of visitors’ feet. They’re also among the most widely distributed of Sri Lanka’s freshwater fish. Now, a new study into that distribution shows that while G. ceylonensis populations in different river basins around the island are physically identical — in size, body patterns, color — they differ genetically. “We found six genetically different populations of G. ceylonensis from different locations,” says lead researcher Hiranya Sudasinghe, a molecular biologist at the University of Peradeniya’s Post-Graduate Institute of Science. Sri Lanka is home to 91 freshwater fish species, 50 of which are found nowhere else on Earth. The algae-eating Garra ceylonensis nibbles a hand under water. Like other members of its genus, it has adapted to a life in swiftly flowing waters. Image courtesy of Hiranya Sudasinghe. But G. ceylonensis is a class apart: It has already adapted to survive in fast-flowing water, feeding on rock-clinging algae with its pouty mouth. The evolutionary history of G. ceylonensis hasn’t been investigated until now, but it’s an ideal organism to reconstruct the evolutionary history of a widespread, yet morphologically specialized, freshwater fish in a tropical-island setting, Sudasinghe says. The research, for which Sudasinghe and his team collected specimens from 38…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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