Brazilian researchers have found a new species of endangered cave-dwelling fish that is threatened by a destruction of its habitat, because of an expansion of cattle ranching.
The fish — Ituglanis boticario — is a carnivore, less than 10 cm long, and has little pigmentation since it lives underground, according to the Grupo Boticario Foundation for Nature Protection, which financed the project.
The fish is endemic to the Gruta da Tarimba, a cave in the central Brazilian state of Goias, the foundation said.
“The expansion of cattle ranching diminishes the environment’s ability to drain water into the cavern, which reduces the available food and harms the species that live there,” said Maria Elina Bichuette, one of the researchers involved in the discovery.
Bichuette, a scientist with the Federal University of Sao Carlos, said cattle urine increases concentrations of urea and ammonia in the water, further threatening the fish living in the cave.
The species was described by scientists in an article published in the latest edition of the Brazilian Zoological Society’s journal.
Bichuette said the Ituglanis was at the top of the food chain in the cave, feeding on larvae and insects.
“Their extinction could cause a serious (ecological) imbalance, since they are responsible for population control among diverse species,” she said.
Brazil “has an enormous richness of ecosystems, now being destroyed even before we have time to learn about them”, Bichuette said.
“We have between 10,000 and 12,000 registered caverns, but the number of existing caverns could reach 100,000,” she revealed.