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Kumaon's Aquatic Treasures: A Closer Look at its Diverse Fish Kingdom


Hidden amidst the breathtaking landscapes of the Kumaon region in Uttarakhand lies a world teeming with aquatic wonders. The rivers that meander through this region are home to a dazzling array of fish species, each with its own unique charm and ecological significance. In this journey of discovery, we dive into the depths of Kumaon's rivers to uncover the captivating stories of some of its most remarkable inhabitants.

1. Golden Mahseer (Tor putitora): The Aquatic Titan

Imagine a fish that can grow up to a jaw-dropping 2.7 meters in length and tip the scales at a staggering 54 kilograms! Meet the Golden Mahseer, a true giant among river denizens. Classified as endangered by the IUCN, this majestic fish is easily distinguished by its colossal size scales and a head that outstrips the depth of its body.

What truly sets the Golden Mahseer apart is its radiant color palette. Adult individuals sport a splendid golden orange to yellow hue on their flanks, gradually fading into silvery white on their bellies. Their fins gleam with a resplendent yellow, and they sport two pairs of short barbels at the corners of their mouths. The Golden Mahseer reigns supreme in large rocky pools and rapids, feasting on a delectable menu of worms, insects, mollusks, and small fish.

This magnificent species calls the Alaknanda, Nandakini, Pindar, Mandakini, Bhagirathi, Bhilangana, Gular, Ganga, Yamuna, Tones, Nayar, Himwal, Khohi, Song rivers of the Garhwal region and Kosi, Ramganga, Sarju, Gomati, Gagas, Gori, Lohwadi, Dhauli Kali rivers of the Kumaon region home.

Golden Mahseer in river.
A massive Golden Mahseer swimming in clear river waters.

2. Silver Mahseer (Tor tor): The Shimmering Jewel

The Silver Mahseer, a close cousin of the Golden Mahseer, may not match its golden counterpart in size, but it's no less captivating. Growing up to 1.5 meters and weighing up to 68 kilograms, this species is a sight to behold. Classified as near-threatened by the IUCN, it showcases a unique blend of features.

Distinguished by its large scales and a diminutive head, the Silver Mahseer boasts a dorsal region adorned with a mesmerizing silver sheen, extending up to the middle of its body. Its flanks and belly shimmer in silvery white splendor. Like its golden kin, it boasts two pairs of short barbels at the corners of its mouth and thrives in rocky pools and rapids. Its menu consists of worms, insects, mollusks, and small fish.

This enigmatic fish has made its presence known in the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi basins of the Garhwal region and the Kosi and Ramganga rivers of the Kumaon region.

Detailed view of Silver Mahseer scales.
Close-up of the intricate scales on a Silver Mahseer.

3. Stone Sucker (Garra gotyla): The Aquatic Adhesive

Meet the Stone Sucker, a pint-sized wonder with a maximum size of 15 centimeters. Classified as "Least Concern" by the IUCN, this unique species possesses a cylindrical body and a flattened underside of the head. Its snout is endowed with a well-developed proboscis, and it sports a mouth located on the ventral surface of its head, surrounded by a sucker-like structure.

The Stone Sucker's coloration is a striking blend of greenish-black, with yellow scales and a dull white belly. This species has an affinity for rocky substrates in streams and primarily sustains itself by grazing on unicellular algae and detritus.

The Stone Sucker is a ubiquitous inhabitant of the streams and rivers that crisscross the Himalayas. In Uttarakhand, it finds its haven in the Alaknanda, Bhagirathi, Bhilangana, Gular, Ganga, Yamuna, Nayar, Himwal, Khohi, Song rivers of the Garhwal region, and the Kosi, Ramganga, Sarju, Gagas, Suyal, Sarada, and Gaula rivers of the Kumaon region.

Stone Sucker fish on rocks.
Stone Sucker fish adhered to a rocky substrate.

4. Baril (Barilius bendelisis): The Striped Marauder

Dive into the world of Baril, scientifically known as Barilius bendelisis. While it may not boast the size of its cousins, this species makes up for it with a captivating appearance. Growing up to 22 centimeters, it exhibits a stunning lateral compression of its body, marked by 12 dark bands that stand out prominently in the young and subtly in the adults.

With small scales and a wide terminal mouth, the Baril displays a body that gleams in silver, adorned with fine black dots. Its fins, a brilliant shade of orange, add to its allure. This species thrives in fast-flowing streams and rivers, as well as lowland streams, where it sustains itself by feasting on fallen terrestrial insects and drifted animal matter.

The Baril is a common sight in the streams and rivers of the Himalayas, including the Garhwal and Kumaon regions.

5. Rosy Barb (Puntius conchonius): A Splash of Color

The Rosy Barb, scientifically known as Puntius conchonius, may be small in stature, with a maximum size of 14 centimeters, but it dazzles with its vivacious appearance. Characterized by laterally compressed bodies and terminal mouths, these fish are renowned for a distinctive round black dot adorning their posterior region.

Male Rosy Barbs sport a resplendent shade of shiny pink, while their female counterparts shimmer in silvery white. These vibrant beauties inhabit lowland streams, rivers, canals, and ponds, where they indulge in a diet comprising detritus, filamentous algae, and worms.

This species graces the waters of the Garhwal region in rivers such as Gular, Ganga, Yamuna, Tones, Nayar, Himwal, Khohi, Song, and the Kumaon region in rivers like Kosi, Ramganga, Suyal, Sarada, and Gaula.

6. Gangetic Mystus (Mystus cavasius): The Feline Aquanaut

The Gangetic Mystus, scientifically known as Mystus cavasius, brings an air of mystery to the river depths. With a maximum size of 40 centimeters, this medium-sized catfish possesses a head that's dorso-ventrally compressed and a body laterally compressed. What sets it apart are its long adipose dorsal fin, extending immediately after the dorsal fin, and long maxillary barbels that run up to the end of the anal fin.

With a silver body adorned with a subtle yellow shade and a dark grey head, the Gangetic Mystus is a common sight in lowland streams, rivers, and reservoirs. It subsists on a diet of worms and aquatic insects.

In Uttarakhand, this species is found in the lower Ganga and Song rivers of the Garhwal region and the Kosi, Sarada, Dhela, Bore, Feeka,



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