Kunming snout trout (Schizothorax grahami)

Synonyms: Oreinus grahami, Racoma grahami
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassActinopterygii
OrderCypriniformes
FamilyCyprinidae
GenusSchizothorax (1)
SizeLength: 17 - 30 cm (2)

The Kunming snow trout is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The Kunming snow trout (Schizothorax grahami) belongs to a little-studied genus of freshwater fish from Central and East Asia (3). All species in the genus Schizothorax have an elongate body, which is covered in very small scales. There is a row of tile-like scales along the base of the anal fin (3) (4).

Like other members of the Cyprinidae family, the Kunming snow trout does not have teeth in the jaws, instead possessing a pair of enlarged bones in the throat which possess structures known as ‘pharyngeal teeth’. Schizothorax species are defined by having three rows of pharyngeal teeth, which are used to process food (2) (4) (5). Fish in this genus also have two pairs of fleshy barbels around the mouth (5). A less conspicuous feature of Schizothorax species is a small bone, called the kinethmoid, which enables the upper jaw to be extended (2) (4). 

The Kunming snow trout is endemic to the tributaries and springs of Lake Dianchi in China, where it is restricted to the Muyang River, Lengshui River, Black dragon spring and Green dragon spring (1).

This species has not been caught from Lake Dianchi itself in the past 20 years (1).

A freshwater species, the Kunming snow trout prefers areas of riffles and cold water, as well as rapids and pools in fast-flowing streams (1) (2).

During the summer months, the Kunming snow trout feeds over sandy or rocky substrate in fast-flowing waters, retreating in winter under large stones or into caves (1). Like other species in the genus Schixothorax, the Kunming snow trout is probably capable of feeding on a variety of different food sources (3) (4).  

The breeding season of the Kunming snow trout is not well documented. However, it is known that this species migrates to suitable habitat in streams and rivers, where it spawns in riffles (1), typically in clean water with a gravelly bottom (3). Many other species of Schizothorax lay their eggs in August and September, and most appear to have a second period of spawning during the spring (3).

The Kunming snow trout has an extremely restricted distribution, and the population is thought to be declining. Introduced fish species, water pollution and over-fishing have all been identified as major threats to the Kunming snow trout. Habitat loss, siltation and changes in the access to breeding sites are also important factors in its decline (1).

It is likely that the Kunming snow trout is also threatened by climate change. Species with small or fragmented distributions and narrow environmental tolerances are thought to be particularly vulnerable to climatic changes, which include rising temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns and drought. Such range-restricted species are unlikely to be able to disperse to more suitable habitats, and may not be able to adapt quickly enough to cope with the rapidly changing climate (6) (7).

Although it is not located in a formally protected area, two of the springs where the Kunming snow trout occurs are ‘protected’ by the presence of Buddhist temples. However, this species is not currently the focus of any specific conservation measures (1).

It is possible that the Kunming snow trout may be found in additional locations, and more surveys are required to investigate this possibility (1). In addition, this species would benefit from further research into its biology, habitat requirements and its vulnerability to known threats, to aid any future conservation planning.

Find out more about the impact of climate change on threatened species:

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:
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  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. FishBase - Schizothorax grahami (June, 2011)
    http://www.fishbase.org/summary/SpeciesSummary.php?genusname=Schizothorax&speciesname=grahami
  3. Sharma, B.P. (1989) Status of Schizothorax species in the Indian-Chinese sub-continent. In: Petr, T. (Ed.) Papers Contributed to the Workshop on the Use of Cyprinids in the Fisheries Management of Larger Inland Water Bodies of the Indo-Pacific andCountry Reports Presented at the Fourth Session of the Indo-Pacific Fishery Commission Working Party of Experts on Inland Fisheries. Inland Water Resources and Aquaculture Service, Fishery Resources and Environment Division, Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, Rome.
  4. Campbell, A. and Dawes, J. (2004) Encyclopedia of Underwater Life. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Terashima, A. (1984) Three new species of the Cyprinid genus Schizothorax from Lake Rara, north western Nepal. Japanese Journal of Ichthyology, 31(2): 122-135.
  6. IUCN - Climate change and species (June, 2011)
    http://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/species/our_work/climate_change_and_species/
  7. IUCN and the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. (2008) Species susceptibility to climate change impacts. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. Available at:
    http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/climate_change_and_species.pdf