Gizani (Ladigesocypris ghigii)

Also known as: Ghizáni
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassActinopterygii
OrderCypriniformes
FamilyCyprinidae
GenusLadigesocypris (1)
SizeLength: 10 - 12 cm (2)

The gizani is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

A small-bodied, freshwater fish (3), the gizani (Ladigesocypris ghigii) is an endangered cyprinid that is endemic to Rhodes Island, Greece (2) (4) (5) (6). This tiny species is named after an Italian professor, Alessandro Ghigi, who first discovered it on Rhodes at the beginning of the 20th century (6).

The gizani has a silvery-grey body which is generally darker on the back and lighter on the undersides (6). A broad, dark stripe on its sides runs from the head towards the tail (7). The body, except for the head, is covered in scales. Like most members of the Cyprinidae family, the gizani doesn’t have any teeth in its jaws, instead having an enlarged pair of bones in the throat which allow it to chew or grind down food, as well as a small bone, called the kinethmoid, which allows the upper jaw to be protruded (8).

This slender cyprinid may be distinguished from other similar species in south-eastern Europe by a number of features, including the presence of an incomplete lateral line along the body (7).

The gizani is endemic to Rhodes Island in Greece (1) (5) (6) (7).

This species inhabits most of the island’s freshwater systems, including streams, springs, pools, lakes, rivers and reservoirs (1) (3). It also occurs in wetlands and marshes (7) (9).

The gizani prefers slow-flowing waters, often near to the mouths of streams. It generally stays close to the banks and will hide among the roots of trees, in holes in the bank, under rocks or amid vegetation and algae (3) (6) (7) (9).

The environmental conditions of the gizani’s habitat fluctuate widely (4) (6), with winter water temperatures plummeting to around -10 degrees Celsius and summer temperatures reaching highs of over 30 degrees Celsius (6). This species’ habitat is also prone to drought and during summer many of the streams dry up, meaning that the gizani must survive in small, temporary pools along the streams or close to permanent springs (4). 

An opportunistic feeder (6), the gizani feeds on a wide variety of food items, ranging from aquatic invertebrates and insect larvae to algae and plant material (3) (6) (7). The gizani generally searches for its prey in the middle and upper sections of the water, rather than along the bottom (9).

This species breeds in spring and early summer (5) (6), and individuals may spawn on multiple occasions during the same breeding season (5) (6) (9). It is a polygamous species, with each male mating successively with multiple females and each female capable of mating successfully with several males (5). The duration of the breeding season varies from year to year, depending on the local environmental conditions (6).

Spawning typically begins with the male following and displaying to a female. Multiple males will often display to and attempt to stimulate the same female, usually by rubbing against the female’s sides and abdomen (5). The female gizani moves to aquatic vegetation or algae to spawn (5) (6) (7), and will often perform burrowing movements before releasing the eggs. The eggs are then fertilised by following males, with one female and two or three males typically involved in each spawning event (5). 

The lifespan of the gizani is short, lasting for only three years in the wild. This species reaches maturity at the end of its first year (3) (6).

The main threats to the gizani are habitat destruction and abstraction of water (6) (7). Drought during the summer months leads to over-abstraction of water during the dry season for domestic use and irrigation, which causes freshwater streams to dry up and results in high fish mortality (2) (3) (4) (6) (9). Tourism development has considerably increased water consumption on the island, while the redirection of water for irrigation purposes is often unregulated (3) (6).

Severe degradation of freshwater resources, largely through human activity, is having serious negative consequences for the remaining gizani populations. Pollution of water sources is a particular threat to this species (2) (3) (6), while waste disposal and collection of sand and gravel from stream beds alter the natural water flow and further degrade its habitat (3) (6) (9).

Introduced, non-native fish species pose an additional risk to the gizani due to competition for space and resources. Introduced fish may also harbour parasites or diseases which could significantly affect populations of native fish species such as the gizani (2) (3).

The gizani also has very limited genetic diversity due to its high levels of mortality, making its populations more vulnerable to collapse and leading to an increased risk of localised extinctions (3) (6). Climate change is also likely to affect the local environmental conditions and thus the habitats used by the gizani, particularly through the increased likelihood of drought (2).

The gizani is listed as a priority species on Annex II of the European Union Habitats Directive (1) (3) (4) (10) and is protected by Presidential Decree No 67/1981 of the Greek State (1) (6). It is also listed in the Red Book of Endangered Species of Greece (6). A variety of other ministry and parliamentary legislation also exists for the protection, conservation and management of habitats and freshwater fishes in Greece (11).

A European Union (EU) LIFE project to improve the gizani’s threatened status has helped to ensure the future survival of this species (1) (6). Research was carried out as part of the project to determine the gizani’s geographic range and population trends, the state of this species’ habitat and its habitat preferences, its genetic composition and the threats to its survival (2) (6). As a result, a number of conservation actions were put in place, including the construction of information centres for visitors, an artificial breeding programme and an action plan for the future conservation of this species (2) (3).

Conservation measures for this species include carrying out more research into its life history, managing freshwater resources in a sustainable way to ensure that streams do not dry out, reducing pollution in streams and rivers to maintain water quality, and creating fish refuges along streams. Other actions include protecting forests surrounding the gizani’s habitat from fire, as this would help retain rainwater so that underground water sources are maintained (6).

Translocation of individuals between populations has not been recommended, as it may increase the transmission of disease and parasites (4).

The gizani would benefit from further management programmes which combine freshwater ecosystem conservation and sustainable management of water resources, as well as educational and research programmes to promote sustainable management of the Mediterranean’s precious freshwater resources (2).

Find out more about conservation of the gizani:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Darwall, W. and Smith, K. (Eds.) (2006) The Status and Distribution of Freshwater Fish Endemic to the Mediterranean Basin. IUCN, Gland Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. Available at:
    http://data.iucn.org/dbtw-wpd/edocs/RL-2006-002.pdf
  3. EC LIFE Project Description: Conservation measures for the endangered fish Ladigesocypris ghigii (September, 2011)
    http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/project/Projects/index.cfm?fuseaction=search.dspPage&n_proj_id=316&docType=pdf
  4. Mamuris, Z., Stoumboudi, M.T., Stamatis, C., Barbieri, R. and Moutou, K.A. (2005) Genetic variation in populations of the endangered fish Ladigesocypris ghigii and its implications for conservation. Freshwater Biology, 50: 1441-1453.
  5. Poncin, P., Stoumboudi, M.T., Gervalle, L., Barbieri, R., Economou, A.N. and Economidis, P.S. (2005) The spawning behaviour of the endangered freshwater fish Ladigesocypris ghigii (Gianferrari, 1927). Journal of Applied Ichthyology, 21: 225-228.
  6. Gizani EU LIFE-Nature Project (September, 2011)
    http://www.life-gizani.gr/pages/en/gizani/index.htm
  7. FishBase - Gizani (September, 2011)
    http://fishbase.org/summary/speciessummary.php?id=9808
  8. Campbell, A. and Dawes, J. (2004) Encyclopedia of Underwater Life. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  9. Economidis, P.S. (1995) Endangered freshwater fishes of Greece. Biological Conservation, 72: 201-211.
  10. EU Habitats Directive (September, 2011)
    http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-1374
  11. Bobori, D.C., Economidis, P.S. and Maurakis, E.G. (2001) Freshwater fish habitat science and management in Greece. Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management, 4: 381-391.