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Distribution, endemism and threat status of freshwater fishes in the Western Ghats of India


*Neelesh Dahanukar, 1104/B, Shivajinagar, Shashi Apartments, Model Colony, Pune 411016, Maharashtra, India.


Aim  To study (1) the large-scale distribution patterns of freshwater fishes in the Western Ghats of India; (2) the endemism and uniqueness of the fishes in various zones; and (3) the threat status of fishes by categorizing them under low risk (LR), vulnerable (VU), endangered (EN) and critically endangered (CR).

Location  The Western Ghats of India.

Methods  The scientific literature describing the freshwater fishes of the Western Ghats was reviewed. Data describing the lists of the species were extracted and complied. The species accumulation curve was plotted using Michaelis–Menten-like equation. The Western Ghats was divided into six zones and similarity of the species was calculated using Jacquard's index.

Results  Literature to date records 288 species belonging to 12 orders, 41 families and 109 genera, of which 118 species are endemic and 51 are unique. However, the species accumulation curve shows that there might be 345 species in this region, indicating that 16% species have not been recorded to date. An analysis of the distribution pattern of fishes in the Western Ghats suggests that the southern region is more diverse than the northern and central regions. The southern region shows high endemism and high uniqueness while the northern region shows high endemism but less uniqueness. The similarity index between the zones indicates that as the distance between the zones increases similarity decreases. The status of 105 of 288 species was not known due to data deficiency but among the remaining 183 species, 58 species were categorized as LR, 41 as VU, 54 as EN, 24 as CR while the remaining six species were introduced.

Conclusions  The distribution patterns of fishes in the Western Ghats are discussed in accordance with the geography of Western Ghats, its climatic conditions and ‘Satpura Hypothesis’. The threat status of fishes found in Western Ghats suggests that at least 41% of fish fauna is threatened by either being VU, EN or CR. Implication of potent conservation measures is necessary to conserve the fish fauna of Western Ghats.