Sahyadria denisonii 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Cypriniformes Cyprinidae

Scientific Name: Sahyadria denisonii
Species Authority: (Day, 1865)
Common Name(s):
English Red Line Torpedo Barb, Miss Kerala, Denison Barb
Labeo denisonii Day, 1865
Puntius denisonii (Day, 1865)
Taxonomic Source(s): Eschmeyer, W.N. (ed.). 2015. Catalog of Fishes. Updated 7 January 2015. Available at: (Accessed: 7 January 2015).
Taxonomic Notes: Puntius denisonii was described by Day (1865) from Mundakkayam, Kerala, southern India.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A2acde+3cde; B2ab(iii) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2010-07-06
Assessor(s): Ali, A., Raghavan, R. & Dahanukar, N.
Reviewer(s): Gopalakrishnan, A., Rema Devi, K.R., Shaji, C.P., Arunachalam, M., Johnson, J.A., Vidyadhar, A., Rahul, K., Krishna , K.K. & Molur, S.
Contributor(s): Molur, S., Bogutskaya, N. & Rema Devi, K.R.
Sahyadria denisonii has been assessed as Endangered as populations have declined by more than 50% in the recent past due to indiscriminate exploitation for the international aquarium pet trade. These declines are expected to continue in the foreseeable future unless local management plans, as well as national and international legislations are created and implemented. The species also has a restricted range with an area of occupancy of less than 300 kmĀ² with continuing decline in quality of key habitats.
Previously published Red List assessments:
2013 Endangered (EN)
2009 Vulnerable (VU)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Sahyadria denisonii is endemic to the Western Ghats where it occurs as fragmented populations in the states of Kerala and Karnataka (Raghavan et al. 2010, Prasad et al. 2008). Known from the rivers Chandragiri (Biju 2005, Kurup et al. 2004), Valapatanam (Biju 2005), Karyangod (Kurup and Radhakrishnan 2006), Chaliyar (Shaji et al. 2000), Kuttiyadi (R. Raghavan and A. Ali pers.obs.), Bharatapuzha (Kurup et al. 2004), Sullya (R. Raghavan and A. Ali pers.comm), Kuppam, Iritti, Anjarakandipuzha and Bhavani River in Chavadiar (Mercy 2010; A. Gopalakrishnan pers. comm.).

Populations have also been reported from Chalakudi (Radhakrishnan and Kurup 2006), Periyar (Thomas 2004), Manimala (Thomas 2004), Achenkovil (Kurup et al. 2004), and Pampa (Thomas 2004). These localities however represent S. chalakkudiensis (A. Gopalakrishnan pers. comm.).
Countries occurrence:
India (Karnataka, Kerala)
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:300
Number of Locations:11
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The total population of S. denisonii is unknown. However the species is considered to be rare (Radhakrishnan and Kurup 2006, Kurup and Radhakrishnan 2006). Studies conducted at Cochin University of Science and Technology have indicated that populations of S. denisonii has declined at a rate of 70% at key collection sites (Kurup and Radhakrishnan 2006). A recent ongoing study by the Conservation Research Group, St. Albert's College, Kochi has observed that the species is overfished in Valapatanam River (exploitation rate E = 0.596) in Kerala (Raghavan 2010). In another completed study by MPEDA, based on the secondary data collected from the collectors, the catch by the collectors increased from 2003 to 2007 in Valapattanam, Kuttiyadi, Chalayar and Chandragiri rivers (Mercy and Malika 2010).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:Yes
Continuing decline in subpopulations:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Sahyadria denisonii is a stream dwelling fish with an affinity towards rocky pools, edges with thick overhanging vegetation along its banks (Radhakrishnan 2006, Raghavan et al. 2009). However they have also been observed from a wide variety of riverine habitats including run, glide and riffles with sand, gravel, cobbles and boulders as substrates (Biju 2005). They are gregarious and often appear in shoals. The species is known to spawn during the North East Monsoon in the months of November-January (Manoj et al. 2010, R. Raghavan and A. Ali pers. obs.).
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Sahyadria denisonii is the most popular and highly priced freshwater ornamental fish of the Western Ghats. Of India's total live ornamental fish exports to the tune of 1.54 million US$ during 2007-2008, S. denisonii accounted for almost 60-65% (Mittal 2009). This colourful barb is so popular in the hobby that it has been requested in majority of the trade enquiries and exported regularly from India (Sekharan and Ramachandran 2006). The larger individuals of S. denisonii are also used as food fish by the local communities and tribes in the forest areas of Kerala (A. Ali and R. Raghavan pers. obs.). Captive bred S. denisonii are being exported from Indonesia and Singapore (Mittal 2009).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Collection for the international aquarium pet trade is the single major threat to S. denisonii  (Mittal 2009, Prasad et al. 2007). Harvest of 'yet to be mature' juveniles as well as brooders is a major concern as the fishery is unregulated and 'open access'. In addition, there is an on-going decline in habitat quality at prime habitats of S. denisonii due to pollution from plantations as well as domestic sources. Destructive fishing for larger food fish using dynamites and plant poisons also affect S. denisonii as they share habitats with the larger cyprinids.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: To regulate the harvest and trade of this cyprinid, the Government of Kerala (India) has initiated management plans including fixing total allowable catch (TAC), restrictions on gear size, closed seasons. There are also plans to demarcate certain key S. denisonii habitats as sanctuaries and no take zones (Mittal 2009).  Although the captive breeding technology for this species has been developed by both researchers and hobbyists (Manoj et al. 2010; Mathew 2008; Mercy et al. 2010), commercial scale operations have not started. There are reports that S. denisonii is being captive bred in Indonesia and Singapore and exported (Mittal 2009), but the impacts of such operations on the collection and exports from India is yet to be understood.

Life history studies on the species have been conducted by Radhakrishnan and Kurup (2008) and Harikrishnan et al. (2008) studied the population dynamics in \the rivers of Kerala. Distinct genetic stocks identified in Chandragiri, Valapattanam and Chaliyar rivers (Lijo unpublished PhD thesis, NBFGR).

A species specific conservation plan requires urgent attention.

Classifications [top]

5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.1. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Rivers/Streams/Creeks (includes waterfalls)
suitability: Suitable  major importance:Yes
1. Land/water protection -> 1.2. Resource & habitat protection
3. Species management -> 3.3. Species re-introduction -> 3.3.1. Reintroduction
3. Species management -> 3.4. Ex-situ conservation -> 3.4.1. Captive breeding/artificial propagation
3. Species management -> 3.4. Ex-situ conservation -> 3.4.2. Genome resource bank
4. Education & awareness -> 4.1. Formal education
4. Education & awareness -> 4.3. Awareness & communications
5. Law & policy -> 5.1. Legislation -> 5.1.1. International level
5. Law & policy -> 5.1. Legislation -> 5.1.2. National level
5. Law & policy -> 5.1. Legislation -> 5.1.3. Sub-national level
5. Law & policy -> 5.2. Policies and regulations
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.1. International level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.2. National level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.3. Sub-national level
6. Livelihood, economic & other incentives -> 6.2. Substitution

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:No
  Systematic monitoring scheme:No
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over part of range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Percentage of population protected by PAs (0-100):40
  Area based regional management plan:No
  Invasive species control or prevention:No
In-Place Species Management
  Harvest management plan:Yes
  Successfully reintroduced or introduced beningly:No
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:No
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:No
  Included in international legislation:No
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:No
5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.2. Intentional use: (large scale)
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity: Very Rapid Declines ⇒ Impact score: High Impact: 8 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.3. Other ecosystem modifications
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity: Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score: Medium Impact: 6 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

9. Pollution -> 9.1. Domestic & urban waste water -> 9.1.3. Type Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity: Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score: Medium Impact: 6 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Research -> 1.1. Taxonomy
1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
2. Conservation Planning -> 2.1. Species Action/Recovery Plan
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.2. Harvest level trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.3. Trade trends

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓ 

♦  Pets/display animals, horticulture
 National : ✓  International : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Biju, C.R. 2005. Habitat and Distribution of Hillstream Fishes of Northern Kerala (north of Palghat Gap). Zoology, Mahatma Gandhi University.

Day, F. 1865. On the fishes of Cochin, on the Malabar Coast of India. Part II. Anacanthini. Proceedings of the General Meetings for Scientific Business of the Zoological Society of London 1865 Part 1: 286-318.

Harikrishnan, M., Radhakrishnan, K. and Kurup, M.B. 2008. Population dynamics of Puntius denisoni inhabiting rivers of Kerala. Ornamentals Kerala - Breeding, Farming and Trade, Government of Kerala.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.1. Available at: (Accessed: 28 May 2015).

Kurup, B.M and Radhakrishnan, K.V. 2006. Indigenous ornamental fish resources of Western Ghats with special reference to Kerala. Souvenir of Ornamentals Kerala 2006, International Seminar on Ornamental Fish Breeding, Farming and Trade. Department of Fisheries, Government of Kerala, Cochin, India.

Kurup, B.M., Radhakrishnan, K.V. and Manojkumar, T.G. 2004. Biodiversity Status of Fishes Inhabiting Rivers of Kerala (South India) With Special Reference to Endemism, Threats and Conservation Measures. In: R.L. Welcomme and T. Petr (eds), Proceedings of the second international symposium on the management of large rivers for fisheries 2: 316. Cambodia.

Manoj, C.K., Nair, C.M., Salin, K.R. and Pillai, D. 2010. Captive breeding and embryonic development of Puntius denisonii, an endemic ornamental fish in the rivers of the Western Ghats, Kerala, India. Fishing Chimes 29(12): 18-21.

Mathew, D.M. 2008. 'Miss Kerala' thrives in Chennai. The Hindu, October 16 2008

Mercy, T.V.A. and Malika, V. Submitted. Stock assessment and development of captive breeding technology of Puntius denisonii (Day) - an indigenous ornamental fish of the Western Ghats, India. College of Fisheries, Kerala Agricultural University, Kochi.

Mercy, T.V.A., Malika, V. and Sajan, S. 2010. Breakthrough in breeding of Puntius denisonii. Infofish International July/August(4): 14-17.

Mittal, R. 2009. Business unusual: Conserving Miss Kerala. Aquarama Magazine 12: 7-9.

Prasad, G., Ali, A.P.H and Raghavan, R. 2008. Threatened Fishes of the World: Puntius denisonii (Day 1865) (Cyprinidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes 83: 189-190.

Radhakrishnan, K.V. and Kurup, B.M. 2006. Distribution and stock size of freshwater ornamental fishes of Kerala (S India) with special reference to sustainabilty issue. In: Kurup, B.M and Ravindran, K. (eds), Sustain Fish - International Symposium on Improved Sustainability of fish production systems and appropriate technologies for utilization, pp. 589-605. Kochi, India.

Radhakrsihnan, K. and Kurup, M.B. 2008. Life history traits of Puntius denisonii inhabiting rivers of Kerala. Ornamentals Kerala - Breeding, Farming and Trade, Governemtn of Kerala.

Raghavan, R. 2010. Ornamental fisheries and trade in Kerala. In: Sonnenschein, L. and Benziger, A. (eds), Conservation of Fishes in Kerala, India, pp. 169-187. World Aquarium, St. Louis.

Raghavan, R., Prasad, G., Ali, A.P.H and Sujarittanonta, L. 2007. 'Boom and Bust fishery' in a biodiversity hotspot - Is the Western Ghats losing its most celebrated native ornamental fish, Puntius denisonii Day? Current Science 92(12): 1671-1672.

Raghavan, R., Prasad, G., Ali, A.P.H., Pereira, B., Baby, F and Ramprasanth, M. 2010. Miss Kerala added to the IUCN Red List. Current Science 98(2): 132.

Raghavan, R., Prasad, G., Pereira, B., Ali, A.P.H and Sujarittanonta, L. 2009. Damsel in distress - the tale of Miss Kerala, Puntius denisonii (Day), an endemic and endangered cyprinid of the Western Ghats Biodiversity Hotspot (South India). Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 19: 67-74.

Sekharan, M and Ramachandran, A. 2006. Market preferred indigenous ornamental fishes of Kerala. OFI Journal 52: 20-21.

Shaji, C.P., Easa, P.S. and Gopalakrishnan, A. 2000. Freshwater fish diversity of Western Ghats. In: A.G. Ponniah and A. Gopalakrishnan (eds), Endemic Fish Diversity of Western Ghats, pp. 33-35. NBFGR-NATP Publication. National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources, Lucknow, U.P., India.

Thomas, R.K. 2004. Habitat and Distribution of Hill Stream Fishes of Southern Kerala (south of Palghat Gap). Zoology, Mahatma Gandhi University.

Citation: Ali, A., Raghavan, R. & Dahanukar, N. 2015. Sahyadria denisonii. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T169662A70082469. . Downloaded on 29 November 2015.
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