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Newly identified African fish species named after Sir David Attenborough

16 October 2020 5:48 PM
Tags:
Tanzania
Stellenbosch University
Conservation
Sir David Attenborough
Serengeti
Serengeti National Park
killifish species
Dirk Bellstedt
natural ecosystem

SU's Dirk Bellstedt talks about this special species and why it exemplifies one of Attenborough's most enduring messages.
FILE: Sir David Attenborough. Image: @Sir-David-Attenborough-The-Third-Dimension/Facebook.com

A newly identified killifish species from Tanzania's Serengeti National Park has been named for the beloved, world-renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

The research team honoured Attenborough in recognition of his ongoing efforts to promote an awareness of the wonders and beauty of nature (biophilia).

Killifish species named for Sir David Attenborough. Image: Brian Watters, Stellenbosch University on Facebook

John Maytham chats to biochemist Prof. Dirk Bellstedt from Stellenbosch University's Biochemistry Department.

Bellstedt is a member of the team that identified and named the brightly coloured 'Nothobranchius attenboroughi'.

Technically speaking you are permitted to name a species after whom you wish. You have to motivate that obviously [to an international zoological committee], and in this instance I don't think the motivation is difficult! Certainly with Sir David motivating us to cognisance of the fact that nature is in peril...

Prof. Dirk Bellstedt, Biochemist - Stellenbosch University

Also, one of the reasons why we specifically named this after him was the fact that Serengeti one associates with the large mammal species that occur there or the wildebeest that do their annual migration, lions etc, but one doesn't really notice the small species in an ecosystem (in this case the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem).

Prof. Dirk Bellstedt, Biochemist - Stellenbosch University

The small components are just as important as the big ones says Bellstedtt, and this is something Attenborough has repeatedly pointed out.

And this little fish is one that lives fast and dies young:

It occurs in these seasonal ponds and that is fascinating because the fish never survive a dry season... When the ponds dry up all the fishes die or they are eaten by birds.

Prof. Dirk Bellstedt, Biochemist - Stellenbosch University

Prior to that they lay their eggs in the mud. They dive into the mud and lay their eggs there and then those eggs don't develop until such time as during the dry season the mud cracks and then oxygen penetrates and then the embryos develop.

Prof. Dirk Bellstedt, Biochemist - Stellenbosch University

When there is water again the fish hatch and grow at a rapid rate - in fact some species able to reproduce just three weeks later.

Listen to the story of how the fish came to be identified through DNA sequencing below:


16 October 2020 5:48 PM
Tags:
Tanzania
Stellenbosch University
Conservation
Sir David Attenborough
Serengeti
Serengeti National Park
killifish species
Dirk Bellstedt
natural ecosystem

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