A new species of catfish belonging to the genus Lithogenes has been described by ichthyologists Scott Schaefer and Francisco Provenzano in a recent issue of the journal American Museum Novitates[1].

The new fish has been given the name Lithogenes wahari, after Ruá-Wahari, the Piaroapeople’s God of Creation[2]. The species is known from the Cuao River, a part of the Orinoco River drainage, where it inhabits clear and swift forest streams with exposed bedrock substratum. It was actually collected over 20 years ago by anthropologist Stanford Zent, but it would take until 2001 before the fish was found again by Scott Schaefer and Francisco Provenzano.

Lithogenes wahari is the third scientifically described member of the small genus Lithogenes and can be distinguished from its two close relatives by the absence of odontodes on the proximal portion of the ventral surface of the first pelvic-fin ray, the lack of accessory premaxillary teeth, the extensive ridges present on the thickened skin of the pelvic pad, and the intense pigment band that runs along the base of the anal fin. There is also a diffuse spot located midlength on the anal fin rays.

Interestingly enough, the new information on this Lithogenes member has led ichthyologists to suggest that the common ancestor of the Loricariidae and Astroblepidae was a fish capable of climbing rocks by grasping them with its mouth and pelvic fins.

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[1] Schaefer, SA and F Provenzano (2008) The Lithogeninae (Siluriformes, Loricariidae): anatomy, interrelationships, and description of a new species. American Museum Novitates 3637, pp. 1–49.

[2] The Piaroa people lives along the banks of the Orinoco River and its tributaries in Venezuela, and in a few other locations elsewhere in Venezuela and in Colombia.