Inventory of the Kashmir Valley fish fauna 1990-1997
Author: Sven O Kullander
The fish fauna of the Jhelum River is one of the earliest local fish faunas known to science. The first collection was made by the Austrian Carl Alexander Anselm von Hügel at the end of a long trip through Eurasia over the period 1831-1836, and deposited in the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria. Heckel (1838, 1844) published two well illustrated taxonomic accounts of the fish collection based on Hügel's specimens, summing to 16 species all of which he considered to be new to science. Ten of the species belong to the group of cyprinid fishes now commonly referred to as oreinins, schizothoracines, mountain barbels, snow trout, or snow barbels. In the minds of ichthyologists and others interested in fishes, the Kashmir Valley is forever The Snow Barbel Place.
The Uri AEIA encountered 14 native and four introduced fish species. We failed to locate the mahseer Tor macrolepis (Heckel, 1838), described from the valley, but later synonymised with T. putitora (Hamilton, 1822), a major, migrating food fish in the Indus drainage, reported from all of the rivers of the southern Himalayan slope. Loss of T. putitora from the upper Jhelum is likely due to migration barriers, especially the Mangla Dam, which does not permit any fish, passage. Only one of the native species is a new record for the valley, viz., the small hillstream catfish Glyptothorax pectinopterus, which may have escaped collecting earlier because of its small size combined with preference for fast current. The introduced Carassius carassius (Linnaeus, 1758) was not reported from the Kashmir Valley in 1990 when the Uri AEIA started.
None of the introduced salmonid species were encountered, although the presence of both brown trout, Salmo trutta (Linnaeus, 1758), and rainbow trout, Oncorynchus mykiss, is confirmed by local spokesmen. Also absent from the samples are the large, high-altitude cold-water oreinins Ptychobarbus conirostris Steindachner, 1866, Diptychus maculatus Steindachner, 1866, and Schizopygopsis stolickai Steindachner, 1866.
The status of Triplophysa ajmonis (Di Caporiacco, 1933), described from the upper Sindh River, but never mentioned by Indian authors, remains uncertain. It may be the same species as T. gracilis (Day, 1877), and then likely restricted to high altitudes.
The silurid catfish Silurus lamghur, was described by Heckel (1838) from the Jhelum. It is possibly a synonym of Ompok pabda (Hamilton, 1822). No silurid species has since then been reliably reported from the Kashmir Valley and Hügel's material was probably collected from further downstream in the Jhelum or from elsewhere.
Also, the snow barbel fauna is much smaller than has been proposed by most authors, with only five instead of up to 14 species.
The following classification lists all fish species known or expected from the Kashmir Valley between Dal Lake and Uri.
Cyprinus carpio Linnaeus, 1758 - Introduced
Carassius carassius (Linnaeus, 1758) - Introduced
Tor putitora (Hamilton, 1822) - Extirpated
Puntius conchonius (Hamilton, 1822) - Introduced
Schizothorax plagiostomus Heckel, 1838
Schizothoras labiatus (McClelland & Griffith, 1842)
Schizothorax curvifrons Heckel, 1838
Schizothorax niger Heckel, 1838
Schizothorax esocinus Heckel, 1838
Bangana diplostoma (Heckel, 1838)
Crossocheilus diplochilus (Heckel, 1838)
Botia birdi Chaudhuri, 1912
Schistura punjabensis (Hora, 1923)
Triplophysa marmorata (Heckel, 1838)
Triplophysa kashmirensis (Hora, 1922)
Glyptosternon reticulatum McClelland & Griffith, 1842
Glyptothorax kashmirensis Hora, 1923
Glyptothorax pectinopterus (McClelland, 1842)
Salmo trutta Linnaeus, 1758 - Introduced
Oncorynchus mykiss (Walbaum, 1892) - Introduced
Gambusia holbrooki Girard, 1859 - Introduced
All fish material collected by the Uri AEIA is maintained in the Swedish Museum of Natural History, where all of it is now computer catalogued and searchable online.
HECKEL, J.J. 1838. Fische aus Caschmir. Carl Freiherrn v. Hügel, Wien.
HECKEL, J.J. 1844. Fische Kaschmir's nebst einem Anhang von drei neuen Arten aus Indien, gesammelt von Freiherrn Carl v. Hügel. Pp. 350-392 in Hügel, C. v., Kaschmir und das Reich der Siek. Vierter Band. Zweite Abtheilung. Hallberger'sche Verlagshandlung, Stuttgart.
KULLANDER, S.O., F. FANG, B. DELLING & E. ÅHLANDER. 1999. The fishes of the Kashmir Valley. Pp. 99-167 In Nyman, L. (ed.), River Jhelum, Kashmir Valley. Impacts on the aquatic environment. Swedmar, Gothenburg.