On the fresh-water fishes collected by William Griffith, Esq., F. L. S. Madras Medical Service, during his travels under the orders of the Supreme Government of India, from 1835 to 1842

John McClelland

Mr. Griffith's travels have put us in possession of two distinct collections of the fresh-water Fishes of India, which from the light they cast on the geographical distribution of these animals, are unquestionably the most important accession to this branch, that it has fallen to the lot of any Asiatic traveller to make.

These collections consist of specimens found by Mr. Griffith during his travels in the Mishmee Mountains, a part of the Himalaya bounding the eastern side of Upper Assam, in 1836 and 183-1; of specimens found by Mr. Griffith in Boutan in 1837 and 1838; of collections made by Mr. Griffith himself in the Kasyah Mountains in 1837; and by his collectors in those mountains during the years 1837, 1838, 1839, and 1840, and who are still continued in his service up to the present period.

They consist, lastly, of collections made by himself at Loodianah, and on the Indus, from thence to Ferozepore, and from the Indus to Shikarpore, the Bolan Pass to the Helmund, and from thence to the tributaries of the Oxus on the northern declivities of Hindoo Koosh. The fishes of the Cabool river were next carefully investigated by Mr. Griffith, as well as those of the streams in the Khybur Pass, the rivers and ponds in the Punjab, and the -Ganges above Sebaranpore.

Some other valuable collections which were made by Mr. Griffith were lost, particularly specimens forwarded from Loodian ah in the beginning of 1839, which may have fallen into improper hands; others, particularly the Shikarpore collections, were spoiled in consequence of the jolting motion of the camels, on which they were necessarily conveyed under the most difficult circumstances; and others, for want of better means of preserving them, were kept merely in salt. ' With these exceptions, the remainder of the collections arrived in Calcutta, if not quite safe and free from those injuries to which such perishable objects were of necessity exposed during a military campaign, at least in a state to admit of the species being accurately identified, and such as are new, described.

In preparing a list of the specimens collected by Mr. Griffith, it would be desirable to,point out a fewof the more striking results to which they are likely to lead, and how far they are calculated to improve what is known of species peculiar to India. Still we would wish it to be remembered, that what is, recorded as new or curious by one, may be found to be quite the revers by another, possessed of better facilities for study. It is satisfactory to know, that Mr. Griffith's collection not only of fishes, but all the other fruits of his extensive and precarious travels which have been almost uninterrupted from 1834 to the present time, are intended to be preserved as objects of study and investigation in apartments allotted to such purposes by the authorities at home. It is therefore unnecessary here to do more than direct attention to the subject, as the collection itself may,be better investigated at, home, (as far as its state of preservation will admit,) while the living animals will become objects of study and amusement, we trust, to future travellers and residents in places where they have been collected with so much care by Mr. Griffith. The following are Mr. Griffith's own remarks on the fishes be met with in Affghanistan and adjoining provinces.

« » « I find, » he observes, « on referring to my notes appended to a numerical list of the Fish of Shikarpore, that the proportions are as follows: »
« Cyprinidae: Paeonominae 22
Cyprinidae: Sarcoborinae 17
Siluridae 8
Ophicephalus 3
Chamba (Buchanan) 1 »
» The list was prepared from the native names, and it appeared to me at the time, that several species had fluctuating names. Not one of the Shikarpore fish has escaped the effects of the journey. »

From Kutch Gundava

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«1 Ophicephalus»

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From Gurmab

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«The characteristic forms of Affghan fish are doubtless the small scaled Barbi and Oreini, and these far exceed the others in number. No Ophicephali, none of the Indian Siluridae, no Macrognathi, no Chamba, no Clupea. The fish are as distinct from the Indian forms as the plants are. »

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Two Bengal species of Leuciscus are found in the Cabul river as high as Jellalabad, namely, L. margarodes and Leuciscus mola, as well as Cyprinus (Leuciscus) angra, and Cyprinus curchius, Buch. Four Bengal species of Gobio are also found in the same river; namely, G. limnophilus, G. bicolor and pangusia, as well as Opsarius baicala, Systomus sophore, immaculatus, and chrysopterus, together with two species of Perilimpus; namely, P. Sutiha and ostreographus. Pimelodus rita has also a wide circulation in this quarter, having been found by Mr. Griffith in the Khybur Pass, in the Chenab, and in the Cabul river. Pimelodus aor, Buch. has beep found also by Mr. Griffith to be one of the characteristic fishes of the Indus, as well as of the Ganges above Seharanpore, but disappears in Affghanistan. Jellalabad is the farthest limit to the north-west to which the species of Hindustan extend. Two species of Ophicephalus are found there, and which are unknown in Bengal, and also a Cirrhinus, which has been named in honour of Sir A. Burnes, from whom Mr. Griffith received every assistance in his pursuits. A similar compliment has also been paid to other officers to whom Mr. Griffith was also anxious to acknowledge similar obligations. The Ophicephalus wrahl and Morulius, Buch. both occur at Loodianah, and indeed there does not appear to be any great difference between the fishes of the Indus and those of the Ganges. The species in both rivers appear to be generally the same where the currents are alike, bat some species appear to be more developed, both in regard to size and number in one river, than in the other.

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The light that these newly discovered forms, (which we owe to the zeal and enterprize of Mr. Griffith,) is likely to cast on the natural affinities and relation of gro-ups, is most important not only to, Ichthyology, but every branch of Natural History. They go far to supply perhaps the only desiderata that were wanting to complete the several groups to which they belong ; and whatever difference of opinion there maybe upon other points, it will be allowed perhaps, that there cannot be one law for fishes, another for birds, &c. so that whatever tends to a perfect knowledge of one group, must serve to elucidate another. This idea, which was:first happily conceived by Mr. MacLeay, has since been generally adopted, and has already given an impulse and an interest to Natural History unknown before. In concluding these remarks, we may add a general list of the species contained in Mr. Griffith's collection. It is as well however to say, that Mr. Griffith's Researches were botanical; and that whatever he has done in Ichthyology and other branches of science, has been accomplished in addition to a masterly investigation of the Flora of the countries he has visited, and which we trust he will live to communicate to the world. .

1. Newly discovered species

4. Species whose habitation has been rendered more defined

Note: The numbers placed after the names refer to the number of specimens despatched to the Museum at the India House. The names without numbers, refer to species of which the specimens were not in a sufficient state of preservation to forward.

The following are the characters of the undescribed species in these Collections.

Afghan Collections

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1. Ophicephalus indicus, nob.

Two plates or scales in the interval between the eyes, and one in front on the snout. Length of the head equal to half that of the body, exclusive of the head and caudal fin. About 36 scales along the lateral line from the operculum to the caudal; the fin rays are,

D. 26 . P. 17 : V. 6 : A. 17: C. 1/12/1.

The jaws are narrow, and the young only appear to be marked with a few obscure bars at the base of the caudal fin.

Habitat. The Chenab in the Punjab, and Loodianab, where it is called Doarka and Dourra. It is also found in the Cabool river.1

2. Ophicephalus montanus

Three complete scales in a row between the eyes, mith three triangularly placed scales in front on the snout. About 43 scales along the lateral line. Pectoral fins crossed with fine bars.

D. 32: P. 14 : V. 6 : A. 17: C. 13.

In large specimens the head is dilated and broad and the three scales in front of the row between the eyes are sometimes wanting.

Habitat. Baisoot, Jullalabad, Himalaya, and Sadoo, (Griffith.)2

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1 C. indicus is generally considered to be a synonym for Channa punctata (Bloch, 1793). [snakeheads.org]. Back

2 C. montanus is generally considered to be a synonym for Channa gachua (Hamilton, 1822). [snakeheads.org]. Back

Acknowledgement and Source(s)

These passages were originally published under the above title in: Calcutta journal of natural history and miscellany of the arts and literature; vol. 2, pp. 560-589, 1842.

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