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 Post subject: The ornate paradise fish >> existence in question
 Post Posted: Thu Sep 06, 2007 10:12 pm 
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Location: Wattala
Exiled to extinction: The ornate paradise fish

Found in 1937 by a judge named De Krester in our island, the ornate paradise fish is commonly known as “Malpulutta”. This paradise fish is of extremely high significance because not only that species, but also its genus is endemic to Sri Lanka.

source: DM/Friday, August 24, 2007
By Rashmini de Silva


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From freshwater to marine habitats, the diversity of labyrinth fish has expanded throughout the world. Ascribable to their vibrant and flamboyant colours and small size, these fish have a high demand in the aquarium trade.

The labyrinth organ is a distinguishing feature, it is a structure located in the head of the fish that enables them to breathe atmospheric oxygen. This special respiratory organ allows them to live in water with low levels of dissolved oxygen. The ability to survive in desolate deoxygenated habitats with the aid of a breathing accessory called the labyrinth organ is a distinct characteristic of fish species in the Belontiidae family.

Air is undeniably a better sound transmitter than water, some scientists have declared that these fish species with labyrinth organs have acute hearing when it is air filled. Species of gourami, Siamese fighters and paradise fish belong to this family. There is a wide variety of labyrinth fish species in Sri Lanka, yet the ornate paradise fish (Malpulutta kretseri) is an eminent member among them.

Found in 1937 by a judge named De Krester in our island, the ornate paradise fish is commonly known as “Malpulutta”. This paradise fish is of extremely high significance because not only that species, but also its genus is endemic to Sri Lanka.

This beige colour fish grows up to about 4cm in length, and has brown irregular spots with an iridescent blue crease outlines the end of the caudal, dorsal and anal fins. The ventral fins are completely blue in most specimens. Male fish are more colourful than the females and have much more elongated caudal tails. The ornate paradise fish resides in the wet zone and the intermediate zone in water bodies with 5-7 pH level. Although Malpulutta specimens are extremely rare in Sri Lanka, earlier they were quite common in Hettipola, situated in the border of Kurunegala and Ratnapura districts. They were also recorded from the Kalutara district but currently its existence in Sri Lanka at all is highly doubtful.

This species of paradise fish inhabit in shady slow flowing shallow streams with silt and leaf debris. Like most Belontids, the ornate paradise fish is omnivorous; its regular diet includes insect larvae, fish fry and plankton.

These labyrinth fish have unique specialized reproductive behaviour. Male paradise fish constructs a bubble nest on the water surface by blowing mucus covered air bubbles from its mouth. After a long courtship, the female releases her eggs, which gets deposited in the nest. This ingenious practice is very effective, because the eggs are placed at the water surface, where the oxygen concentration is at its peak. The male belligerently guards and protects the eggs which take about 48 hours to hatch.

Malpulutta specimens are extremely rare and scarce in Sri Lanka today; many assume that this species has completely vanished from our island since it has not been recorded lately. According to Environmental lawyer, Jagath Gunawardhana, coming across this species was highly sporadic even in 1990. “It has a very discontinuous distribution and presently does not exist in any of its previous localities. When they were fifst discovered during the last century, ornamental fish traders showed a great interest in these species because of its stunning exquisite aureate appearance. The local and international demand for Malpulutta escalated swiftly and large numbers of specimens were haphazardly exported to Europe and Asia. Since things were getting out of control in 1998 the fisheries and aquatic resources agency enforced a law against this and banned the export of this species. Although the ornate paradise fish is not protected by the fauna and flora ordinance, since the exportation of it is barred, it could not lay a huge impact” further added Mr. Gunawardhana. There are many forces that act towards the population deceleration of Malpulutta kretseri, one main factor is habitat loss and degradation and pesticide poisoning. As tea plantations spread across the wet zone, pesticides were used excessively and were released to natural streams and water bodies which directly caused the ornate paradise fish populations to decline. Ascribable to being subjected to numerous threats and imperilments this species is classified under threatened species in the IUCN redlist.

Although the existence of this species is in question, no formal breeding program has been commenced as yet. Surveys and assessments regarding the current population and hazards which induces the diminution of this species should be initiated to uplift the minuscule Malpulutta population and to preserve this magnificent endemic species and genus.


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