A group of scientists has discovered that an edible freshwater fish, available in the markets of western Odisha, is actually an unregistered species.

The new species was named Awaous Motla', said Prof Jaya Kishor Seth, the principal investigator of a project undertaken by the zoology department of Berhampur University and Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Gopalpur.

The discovery was made during the ongoing research project funded by the department of science and technology of the Odisha government.

Specimens of the fish with a vibrant yellow-coloured body and a fleshy upper lip were collected from the Mahanadi river near Sonepur and Boudh bridge in June 2022, said Seth, who teaches zoology at Berhampur University.

"We conducted an extensive study of the specimens in collaboration with Anil Mohapatra of ZSI's Estuarine Biology Regional Centre and a scientist from Australia. We have ascertained that the species was a new one and very distinct from others of the genus in different aspects," Seth said.

Fishermen of the Sonepur region have christened the fish motla'. The species belongs to the family Awaous' (Oxudercidae), and thus, is named Awaous motla', he said.

The zoologist said the fish is consumed both fresh and dried. Local fishermen sell motla' at Rs 600 per kg, and Rs 800 per kg when dried.

Long-term research is needed to find out, among others, its migration pattern and nutritional value because of which it costs more than several other locally available fishes, Seth said.

The details on the new species were published in the online issue of Journal of Fish Biology on October 28.