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NATIVE OR NOT? The evolving story of the mysterious Maloti minnow
By Ian Cox and Andrew Mather


THE short note recently published by PS Kubheka, A Chakona and DN Mazungula in the African Journal of Aquatic Science regarding the “rediscovery” of the Maloti minnow (Pseudobarbus quathlambae) in the Ingeli Hills near Kokstad has reignited the controversy surrounding the original discovery of the fish and whether it is indeed indigenous to South Africa.

Kubheka et al claim that their discovery confirms that the species was more widespread in the Drakensberg streams of KwaZulu-Natal and that “the introduction of trout into Drakensberg streams was largely responsible for the extirpation of the species from the uMkhomazana and other Drakensberg streams”. They assert that this rediscovery creates an obligation “to ensure the long-term survival of the species in South Africa”.

This of course assumes that the Maloti minnow is indigenous to South Africa and that trout are indeed the problem. Both claims are highly speculative. The mere fact that one finds a fish in a river does not mean that it is native to that river; it could have been introduced. This is often the case with minnows which were introduced into a number of rivers in South Africa to provide food for trout. There is also no evidence proving trout have caused the extirpation of any species in South Africa or indeed that they pose an ecological threat in KwaZulu-Natal.

The authenticity of Khubeka’s find still needs to be confirmed by genetic analysis. That analysis will also reveal whether these specimens are an introduction from one of the genetically distinct populations in Lesotho or the distinct genetic group one would expect if they are indeed native to KwaZulu-Natal. However, these are all questions for another day.

This article looks back at the original discovery of the Maloti minnow by Ivor Vaughan, Leonard Hardingham and McVey Brown (Vaughan et al.) in the uMkhomazana some 80 years ago.

According to Bob Crass who interviewed Ivor Vaughan just before his death in 1966, a single specimen of what we now call the Maloti minnow was netted in a pool situated in the upper reaches of the uMkhomazana a short distance below the busy trading outpost situated at the start of what was then a bridal path up Sani Pass. Crass also wrote that Vaughan remembers that a 2 lb 4 oz brown trout was netted in the same pool but was returned to the river.

Read the full story at .
 
 
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