A new subspecies of Mozambique Tilapia of the genus Oreochromis (Pisces: Cichlidae) from Wadi Al Wurayah pools, Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates is described.
This new subspecies is distinguished from the subspecies Oreochromis mossambicus mossambicus living in Saudi Arabia, Oman and United Arab Emirates, by its distinctive body colouration and the smaller size.
It is morphologically and geographically distinct from the subspecies Oreochromis mossambicus mossambicus. The new subspecies was named Oreochromis mossambicus bassamkhalafi Khalaf, 2009.
Let zoologist, ecologist, geologist, Dr. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf-von Jaffa, tell the story of this discovery:
During two field trips to Wadi Al Wurayah, the U.A.E.’s first mountain protected area, located in Al Hajar Mountains, Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, on Saturday the 8th August 2009 and Saturday the 15th August 2009, accompanied with my wife Ola and my daughter Nora, I inspected Wadi Al Wurayah pools and waterfall, and after diving in the circa 6 meter deep pool, I saw many Mozambique Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus ssp.) swimming in the pool waters. These fish were observed, examined, measured and photographed.
Description and Distinctive Features:
After examining Oreochromis mossambicus from the pools of Wadi Al Wurayah, I began comparing with the subspecies Oreochromis mossambicus mossambicus living in Saudi Arabia, Oman and United Arab Emirates. The Wadi Al Wurayah new subspecies Oreochromis mossambicus bassamkhalafi Khalaf, 2009, have a smaller size.
The specimens measured were between 25–30 centimeters. The general body colouration is olive, yellowish to blue-gray with a silvery iridescence. The belly is lighter and may have reddish overtones. The tail fin is with spots. The tail and dorsal fins are edged with red and the pectoral fins are red. At spawning times, the throat of the male is silver-white, while the rest of the body darkens. There are three unclear spots in a horizontal row on the flanks, and six or seven unclear vertical bands on the body. Males are often with an enlarged mouth and a concave head profile. The colour of eyes varies from yellow to dark brown. Oreochromis mossambicus bassamkhalafi have 16 to 20 gill rakers.
The original habitat of Oreochromis mossambicus (Peters, 1852) is the Limpopo River, Mozambique, East Africa. They have been introduced to various tropical and subtropical waters all over the world. In the Arabian Peninsula, it lives in Saudi Arabia, Oman and the Emirates. The new subspecies Oreochromis mossambicus bassamkhalafi is endemic to Wadi Al Wurayah pools, Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates.
The Wadi Al Wurayah Tilapias are omnivores that consume detrital material, vegetation with various ranges from diatoms to macro-algae to rooted plants, invertebrates, and small fry.
Potential to Compete with Native Fish:
Oreochromis mossambicus pose threats to local native populations through competition for food and nesting space (Courtenay et al. 1974). This interaction may reduce the biodiversity of the native fishery due to reduction of food availability and/or by the native fish being eaten as prey (Neil 1966, Bruton and Boltt 1975). But in the Wadi Al Wurayah Pools, it has been observed that Oreochromis mossambicus bassamkhalafi was not preying on the local Wadi Al Wurayah Fish Garra barreimiae wurayahi Khalaf, 2009.
Etymology / Derivation of Scientific Name:
The scientific name Oreochromis: oreos is a Greek word which means “of the mountains” and chroma is also Greek and means “colour”; Mossambicus is Latin for Mozambique; and bassamkhalafi is Latin for my father “Bassam Khalaf” (1938 – 2006).
This subspecies of the Mozambique or Common Tilapia is named in honour of my beloved father “Bassam Ali Taher Khalaf” (Abu Ali), who was born in Jaffa, Palestine, on 10 March 1938, and died in Rilchingen-Hanweiler, Germany on 17 February 2006.
My father was a saltwater and freshwater fish lover all his life. He kept always aquarium fish in our home, and his great hobby was deep sea fishing. I learned a lot from him, including my first animal knowledge and the need to live with love and respect for all the animals we share our planet with.
After studying and examining the Oreochromis mossambicus at Wadi Al Wurayah pools, and comparing with the subspecies Oreochromis mossambicus mossambicus living in Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, and referring to many zoological references, and searching the Internet, I came finally to a conclusion that we are in front of a new subspecies of the Mozambique Tilapia from Wadi Al Wurayah pools, Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates.
I gave it the scientific name Oreochromis mossambicus bassamkhalafi, new subspecies. The subspecies name “bassamkhalaf” is Latin for my father “Bassam Khalaf” (1938 – 2006).
Oreochromis mossambicus bassamkhalafi, new subspecies:
Scientific trinomial name: Oreochromis mossambicus bassamkhalafi Khalaf, 2009.
Authority: Dr. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf-von Jaffa.
Common Names: Emirati Tilapia, Wadi Al Wurayah Tilapia, Bassam Khalaf’s Tilapia.
Holotype: Ombk-1, Male, 25 cm, Dr. Norman Ali Khalaf-von Jaffa’s Collection.
Location: Wadi Al Wurayah pools, Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates.
Date of Capture: 15th August, 2009.
More about Dr Khalaf
Warm congratulations are extended to Dr Khalaf on this second fish species discovery. This is significant for Fujairah and the UAE as well as important internationally for this advance in scientific endeavor.
Dr Khalaf is currently writing a book on the fauna of the United Arab Emirates that will be published in Arabic, English and German. The expected publication date will be in the middle of 2010 and this project is part of the publishing foundation established by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum.
Dr Norman is also working with ecotourism companies to enable tourists and residents to visit the UAE’s rich fauna and flora.
More detail at this web link.
This article was published in "Gazelle: The Palestinian Biological Bulletin". ISSN 0178 - 6288. Number 92, Twenty-seventh Year. August 2009, Sha'ban 1430. pp. 1 - 25. Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
How Do We Get to Wadi Wurayah? Fujairah in Focus.
Dr Geoff Pound
Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.
Images from Top to Bottom:
The newly discovered Emirati Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus bassamkhalafi Khalaf, 2009) at Wadi Al Wurayah pools, Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. Underwater Photo: Ola Mostafa Khalaf. 15.08.2009.
Dr. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf-von Jaffa.
Dr. Norman Ali Khalaf-von Jaffa diving and studying the fish fauna in Wadi Al Wurayah Pools, Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. Underwater Photo: Ola Mostafa Khalaf. 15.08.2009.