BUG working with Indian Forest Departments to resolve mahseer taxonomy

May 15, 2018

As part of a multi-faceted trip during April and May 2018, encompassing four Indian states over a two week period, BUG’s Adrian Pinder and Andy Harrison visited the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department hatchery on the Narmada River in a bid to resolve the taxonomy of the endemic mahseer species found within the Narmada catchment and widespread throughout central India.


Local fishermen retrieve a sample of mahseer from the culture pond at the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department hatchery on the Narmada River


Known throughout the western flowing rivers of central India, including the Narmada, as Tor tor; there exists some taxonomic ambiguity as to whether or not these fish match the original species description by Hamilton in 1822, who described Tor tor from the Mahananda River in West Bengal, a tributary of the Ganges originating in the Himalayas.

To help clarify the taxonomy of the central Indian ‘Tor tor’, Adrian and Andy collected samples of fish from the Narmada hatchery, with permission and assistance from the Technical Investigator Dr Shriparna Roy Saxena, the State Biodiversity Board, Shri Ravi Shrivasta and the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department.

Measurements were taken of 41 different parameters to be used for detailed morphometric analysis, along with genetic samples to be compared with the global mahseer genetic database.


Adrian Pinder and Andy Harrison take detailed morphometric measurements of Tor samples from the Narmada hatchery


Four specimens were retained for detailed photography and preserved as type specimens of the Narmada Tor, for future reference, in case required for new species description.

The aim is to now collect specimens of Tor tor from the type locality in the Mahananda River to undertake similar morphometric and genetic analyses. This will enable us to resolve once and for all whether or not the mahseer of central India is indeed synonymous with the Tor tor originally described by Hamilton in 1822, or if the Tor of central India is, in fact, a different (and potentially hitherto undescribed) species.


Adrian takes detailed photographs of the retained specimens



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