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Garra orientalis (NICHOLS, 1925)

SynonymsTop ↑

Garra rhynchota Koller, 1926; Garra schismatorhyncha Nichols & Pope, 1927


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”.

orientalis: from the Latin orientalis, meaning ‘from the East’, in reference to this species’ eastern Asian origin.


Order: Cypriniformes Family: Cyprinidae


Widely-distributed in southern China, with records from the Zhu Jiang (Pearl River), Chiang Jiang, and Min Jiang watersheds. Reports from Hainan Island appear in need of confirmation, while it is not thought to occur in the Yuan Jiang (Red River) system in China and Vietnam. In addition, earlier records from the Salween and upper Irrawaddy systems in Yunnan province, China and Myanmar are now known to represent other species.

Type locality is ‘Near Nanping, Fukien Province, China’.


Tends to inhabit rocky, swiftly-flowing sections of headwaters and tributaries rather than larger, lowland river channels. The most favourable habitats contain clear, oxygen-saturated water which, allied with the sun, facilitates the development of a rich biofilm carpeting submerged surfaces.

Maximum Standard Length

100 – 120 mm.

NotesTop ↑

Among other Garra species from Southeast Asia and China, G. orientalis is most similar to G. salweenica and G. fuliginosa in that all three possess a roughly triangular, trilobed proboscis on the snout, the anterior margin of which is densely tuberculated, and the inferior margin not in contact with the depressed rostral surface, i.e., the proboscis projects forwards.

It can be identified quite easily, however, since both G. salweenica and G. fuliginosa possesses a dark blotch on the caudal peduncle, and G. salweenica an additional dark marking at the tip of the upper caudal-fin lobe, all of which are absent in G. orientalis. In addition, it possesses 5-6 indistinct longitudinal stripes on the posterior portion of the body.

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. Nichols, J. T., 1925 - American Museum Novitates No. 185: 1-7
    Some Chinese fresh-water fishes. X - Subgenera of bagrin catfishes. XI - Certain apparently undescribed carps from Fukien. XII - A small goby from the central Yangtze. XIII - A new minnow referred to Leucogobio. XIV - Two apparently undescribed fishes from Yunnan.
  2. Li, F.-L., W. Zhou and Q. Fu, 2008 - Zootaxa 1743: 62-68
    Garra findolabium, a new species of cyprinid fish (Teleostei: Cypriniformes) from the Red River drainage in Yunnan, China.
  3. Nebeshwar, K. and W. Vishwanath, 2013 - Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 24(2): 97-120
    Three new species of Garra (Pisces: Cyprinidae) from north-eastern India and redescription of G. gotyla.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. Zhang, E., 2005 - Zoological Studies 44(1): 130-143
    Phylogenetic relationships of labeonine cyprinids of the disc-bearing group (Pisces: Teleostei).
  7. Zhang, E., 2006 - Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 54(2): 447-453
    Garra rotundinasus, a new species of cyprinid fish (Pisces: Teleostei) from the Upper Irrawaddy River basin, China.
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