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Garra mullya (SYKES, 1839)

SynonymsTop ↑

Chondrostoma mullya Sykes, 1839; Discognathus fusiformis Heckel, 1844; Garra malabarica Day, 1865; Garra alta Day, 1867; Garra jerdoni brevimentalia Narayan Rao, 1920; Garra jenkinsonianum Hora, 1921


Garra: vernacular Gangetic name for a particular species of “sand-digger,” which Francis Buchanan-Hamilton applied as a generic name for bottom-dwelling cyprinids “with no affinity to another genus”.

mullya: from the Marathi vernacular name for this species in India.


Order: Cypriniformes Family: Cyprinidae


This species is endemic to and widespread within peninsular India, where it has been recorded from the states of Gujrat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

It is thus found in numerous river systems of which some of the most important include the Tapti, Narmada, Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, and Cauvery.

Type locality is given simply as ‘Deccan, India’, but the description also makes reference to “Downde”, which may refer to Daund on the Bhima river, Pune district, Maharashtra state.


Has been recorded in various habitat-types, from flowing headwater streams and upland systems to low altitude main river channels, including polluted stretches.

At least some populations migrate upstream in order to breed.

Maximum Standard Length

120 – 170 mm.


Wild fish are reported to feed on algae, diatoms, and organic detritus.

NotesTop ↑

G. mullya can be distinguished from other Garra species of the Western Ghats by the following combination of characters: proboscis absent; <34 lateral line sclaes; scales uniformly present on body; interorbital distance less than or about two times HL.

The genus Garra is a particularly enigmatic grouping with new taxa described on a regular basis, while many of the existing ones may represent cases of misidentification or synonyms of other species. Some of the revisions have also been called into question, which has added further confusion. A full generic review would be ideal but is unlikely to materialise given the extensive distribution of its members which range from southern China across much of southeast Asia, India and the Middle East as far as north/central Africa.

Instead a number of less-extensive works published in recent years have resulted in a gradual, but continuing, improvement in knowledge, and it remains possible that the genus will be broken up into smaller taxa since the current assemblage is almost certainly polyphyletic.

Garra species are usually included in the subfamily Labeoninae/Cyprininae or tribe Labeonini (name varies with author) which by recent thinking is further divided into four subtribes; Labeoina, Garraina, Osteochilina, and Semilabeoina (Yang et al., 2012). The putatively monophyletic Garraina comprises a number of genetic lineages including Garra sensu stricto (which also includes Horalabiosa, Phreatichthys and possibly other genera), a small clade comprising Garra cambodgiensis and G. fascicauda (thus rendering Garra polyphyletic), Paracrossocheilus, and Gonorhynchus (which includes Akrokolioplax).

Two Garra species, G. imberba and G. micropulvinus, are placed in the Semilabeoina assemblage, and the generic name Ageneiogarra Garman, 1912 has been suggested for them, although this does not appear to have been widely followed (e.g. Kottelat, 2013). In addition, some genera which were previously considered to be close relatives of Garra species such as DiscogobioDiscocheilus and Placocheilus, are now also placed in this subtribe.

All genera currently included in Garraina possess a lower lip modified to form a mental adhesive disc, allowing the fish to cling to surfaces in turbulent conditions. In most species the upper lip is almost entirely reduced and both the upper and lower jaw margins are keratinised, i.e., horny, and used to scrape food items from the substrate.

Garra species are distinguished from other Garraina members by the first two pectoral-fin rays usually being thickened, fleshy and unbranched, possession of 10-11 dorsal-fin rays, and a combination of internal characters. Some species have evolved particular environmental specialisms such as highly reduced eyes in hypogean forms or the ability to survive in thermal springs.


  1. Sykes, W. H., 1839 - Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1838 (pt 6): 157-165
    On the fishes of the Deccan.
  2. Arunachalam, M. and S. Nandagopal, 2014 - Species 10(24): 43-57
    A new species of the genus Garra Hamilton, (Cypriniformes: Cyprinidae) from Nethravathi River, Western Ghats, India.
  3. Arunachalam, M., S. Nandagopal and R. L. Mayden, 2014 - Species 10(24): 58-78
    Two new species of Garra from Mizoram, India (Cypriniformes: Cyprinidae) and a general comparative analyses of Indian Garra.
  4. Madhusoodana Kurup, B. and K. V. Radhakrishnan, 2011 - Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 107(3): 220-223
    Two new cyprinid fishes under the genus Garra (Hamilton) from Kerala, southern India.
  5. Stiassny, M. L. J. and A. Getahun, 2007 - Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 150(1): 41-83
    An overview of labeonin relationships and the phylogenetic placement of the Afro-Asian genus Garra Hamilton, 1922 (Teleostei: Cyprinidae), with the description of five new species of Garra from Ethiopia, and a key to all African species.
  6. Yang, L., M. Arunachalam, T. Sado, B. A. Levin, A. S. Golubtsov, J. Freyhof, J. P. Friel, W-J. Chen, M. V. Hirt, R. Manickam, M. K. Agnew, A. M. Simons, K. Saitoh, M. Miya, R. L. Mayden, and S. He, 2012 - Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 65(2): 362-379
    Molecular phylogeny of the cyprinid tribe Labeonini (Teleostei: Cypriniformes).
  7. Zhang, E., 2005 - Zoological Studies 44(1): 130-143
    Phylogenetic relationships of labeonine cyprinids of the disc-bearing group (Pisces: Teleostei).
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