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Channa harcourtbutleri (Annandale, 1918)
Inle Snakehead

Channa harcourtbutleri - Inle Snakehead - click to enlarge

    Upper image: ZRC 42556, 111.3 mm standard length, Myanmar: Inle Lake. Lower image: ventral view of head illustrating pigmentation, ZRC 42556, 111.3 mm standard length. Reprinted with permission from P.K.L. Ng from: Ng, H.H., P.K.L. Ng, and Ralf Britz. 1999. Channa harcourtbutleri (Annandale, 1918): a valid species of snakehead (Perciformes: Channidae) from Myanmar. J. South Asian Nat. Hist. 4(1):57-63.

Original description: Ophiocephalus harcourtbutleri Annandale, 1918:54, pl. 2, fig. 7; pl. 4, figs. 16-17. Fishes and fisheries of the Inle Lake. Rec. Indian Mus. (Calcutta), 14:33-64, pls. 1-7. Type locality: southern Shan State, Myanmar (Burma). Holotype: ZSI F9439/1.

Synonyms: (?) Ophioceplahus gachua (non-Hamilton, 1822) Boulenger, 1899:199.
                   Ophiocephalus harcourt-butleri Annandale, 1918:54.
                   (?) Ophicephalus gachua (non-Hamilton, 1822) Hora and Mukerji, 1934:135.
                   Ophiocephalus harcourtbutleri Tint Hlaing, 1971:517.
                   Channa orientalis Kottelat, 1989:20; Talwar and Jhingran, 1991:1019.
                   Channa harcourtbutleri Ng and others, 1999.

Common name: Inle snakehead.

         Native range: Yawnghwe and nearby areas of Myanmar, particularly Inl Lake in southern Shan State (Ng and others, 1999).

         Introduced range: Not known to have been introduced.

         Size: To about 16 cm.

         Habitat preference: Annandale (1918) noted that the species occurred in Inl Lake on “muddy bottom in sluggish streams ... hiding as a rule among weeds.”

         Temperature range: No specific information in literature. Nevertheless, Inle Lake lies at about 20.7o N, indicating that Channa harcourtbutleri is a tropical/subtropical species. Inl Lake is at an altitude of about 1,000 m (Kullander and others, 2000).

         Reproductive habits: No specific information in literature. Ralf Britz (personal commun., 2003) indicated that it is unknown if this species is a nest builder or mouthbrooder.

         Food preferences: No specific information in literature. Likely a thrust predator as are other snakeheads (Ng and others, 1999).

         Characters: No patch of scales in gular region of head. Lateral line curves downward between scales 15-16. Lateral line scales 44-45; transverse scales 4; predorsal scales 4. Dorsal fin rays 34-38 (mode 36); anal fin rays 23-26; pectoral fin rays 14-15 (mode 14) (Ng and others, 1999). This species is most closely related to Channa gachua from which it can be distinguished as follows: Head profile of C. harcourtbutleri flatter and less convex than in C. gachua resulting in a smaller postorbital head depth (30.9-35 percent head length versus 39.8-44 for C. gachua), its length 32-34 percent standard length versus 26.8-31.9 percent, and width 16.9-19 percent standard length versus 18.6-21.7 percent. Moreover, the snout of C. harcourtbutleri is more convex when viewed dorsally (Ng and others, 1999, figs. 3b,4a). The two species also differ in coloration (Ng and others, 1999) with C. harcourtbutleri never having an ocellus at the posterior end of the dorsal fin (occurring in subadult C. gachua).

         Commercial importance in the United States: Not known to have been imported for any purpose.

         Commercial importance in native range: Sold in live-food fish markets in the vicinity of Inl Lake, Myanmar (Ng and others, 1999).

         Environmental concerns: Although this species is tropical/subtropical and could potentially establish if released in southern Florida, Hawaii, and warm thermal springs and their outflows, its food habits are largely unknown (Ralf Britz, personal commun., 2003). Like other snakeheads, it may be a predator (Ng and others, 1999).

Distribution of Channa harcourtbutleri - click to enlarge


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