Fish - Puntius titteya -Barbus titteya
Barbus titteya (Deraniyagala, 1929); Capoeta titteya (Deraniyagala, 1929)
Puntius: from the Bengali pungti, a vernacular term for small cyprinids.
titteya: appears to follow a local vernacular name for the fish.
Order: Cypriniformes Family: Cyprinidae
Endemic to Sri Lanka where it is restricted to the Kelani and Nilwala river basins in the southwestern ‘wet zone’ of the island, plus smaller drainages in the area between them.
Type locality is ‘Ambagaspitiya, Sri Lanka’.
The ‘wet zone’ of southwestern Sri Lanka is an area receiving annual rainfall of 2000-3000 mm, much of which arrives during the South-West monsoons between March and August.
It is a tropical environment with no significant dry spells or climatic changes, and air temperature is fairly constant throughout the year, ranging from 25 – 27 °C.
Such conditions favour development of lowland tropical rainforest at altitudes below 1000 m AMSL.
In Sri Lanka these forests are found only in the wet zone and they are inhabited by a significant proportion of the country’s endemic flora and fauna with the moist, warm climate and long period of geographic isolation leading to exceptional localised biodiversity.
The vast majority has been cleared for plantation agriculture, however, much of it when the country was under British colonial rule, though a significant portion was also removed during the more-recent civil war, with more than 35% of the original cover lost between 1990 and 2005.
As of 2006 only 4.6% of the old forest was left with the remainder existing only in small, highly-fragmented patches, most covering areas less than 10 km², of which some are now officially-protected reserves.
Kottawa Forest is one of these and comprises just 15-20 hectares of wet, evergreen jungle, though the combined Kottawa-Kombala forest covers around 1600 ha.
A number of minor, pristine streams containing clear or slightly-stained, shallow water traverse the reserve and these represent typical habitats of P. titteya across its range.
Little sun is able to penetrate the forest floor so aquatic habitats are shaded and water temperature may be relatively cool, while conductivity and hardness are generally low and pH slightly acid.
Macrophytes are uncommon though there may be dense, marginal vegetation, sometimes overhanging the full width of the stream, the roots of which may penetrate the banks underwater.
Typical substrates are sandy but covered by a layer of leaf litter with fallen twigs and branches.
Sympatric fish species include Rasboroides vaterifloris, Puntius bimaculatus, P. kelumi, Pethia nigrofasciata, Dawkinsia singhala, Schistura notostigma, Mystus vittatus, Aplocheilus werneri, Channa orientalis, Malpulutta kretseri, and Mastacembelus armatus.
Export of wild specimens from Sri Lanka is currently prohibited although collection apparently continues. Reports suggest that the most brightly-coloured fish are becoming scarcer and there exists a possibility that selective collection for the aquarium trade have altered the structure of wild populations.
That said, very little of the country’s forest cover remains due to human activities, with the result that habitat and water quality have been heavily degraded and numerous native fish species are now considered at risk of extinction.
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