Two New Electric Fish Species Discovered in Congo River

Posted on April 10, 2014

Petrocephalus boboto


Two new species of weakly electric fish have been discovered in the Congo River basin in Central Africa. One of the species is known from just one specimen. It was named Petrocephalus boboto. "Boboto" is the word for peace in the Lingala language.

French ichthyologist Sebastien Lavoue of the Taiwan Institute of Oceanography and American ichthyologist John Sullivan of Cornell University captured a single individual of the genus Petrocephalus not quite like any they had seen before during a trip to the Congo River in 2010. Petrocephalus are African weakly fishes of the family Mormyridae that produce pulses of only a few hundred millivolts from an organ made of modified muscle cells in front of their tail. Lavoue and Sullivan are both specialists on mormyrid weakly electric fishes.

Sullivan says in a statement, "We named this hard-to-find Petrocephalus species 'boboto' in the hopes that solutions for peace - though elusive like this fish-can be found in eastern D.R. Congo and the other troubled areas of Central Africa."

Lavoue says, ""Describing a new species from a single specimen is far from ideal, but in this case it seemed the best thing to do. In the places we've sampled, it's obviously very rare. Since we haven't yet found any locality where it's common, it's unlikely we'll find such a locality anytime soon."

A research paper about the two new species of African electric fish, Petrocephalus boboto and Petrocephalus arnegardi, was published here in ZooKeys.

Photo: John P. Sullivan and Sebastien Lavoue