Researchers have found a new species of fish in Colombia’s most important and possibly most contaminated major river, signaling the waterway’s continued vitality in spite of rising pollution levels, according to the National University of Colombia.
The discovery of the Farlowella species, an elongated fish measuring approximately 4 inches, has surprised local experts, who are more accustomed to seeing the disappearance of species in the Magdalena River, which runs some 950 miles through the country to the Caribbean coast and carries human and cargo traffic throughout the year.
The Farlowella belongs to the same family as the “corroncho” or “cucha” fish, which have a much larger area of distribution throughout the river, and are commonly used as cheap, ornamental fish.
Gustavo Ballen, a National University student and member of the research team that discovered the fish, explains that the fish are often live amid vegetation on the river’s banks “eating the algae growing on rocks and logs.”
Currently, researchers are focusing the “Middle Magdalena” region in the centre of the country in an attempt to find similar species and understand the human impact on their distribution.
Unregulated deforestation and pollution from townships along its banks continue to have an increasing impact on the waterway, which passes through some of Colombia’s heavily populated regions and sustains the livelihoods of millions of people. In particular, the river’s coastal region has become the center of Colombia’s booming oil extraction and processing industry.
Ballen said that although the river is still sustaining many species throughout its various ecosystem, the rate of contamination is causing many species to disappear.
“The rate of species disappearing within its bio-diversity is much higher than we know […] we will surely lose many species before even noticing that they were even there,” he said.
- Pese a contaminación, hallan nueva especie de pez en el río Magdalena (Universidad Nacional Press Release)