Loach (Cobitis puncticulata)

GenusCobitis (1)

Cobitis puncticulata is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).

A Critically Endangered freshwater fish of Greece and Turkey, Cobitis puncticulata is a peculiar looking fish with a brownish body and a scattering of small, dark-grey dots across the head and upperparts. In fact, this species scientific name refers to its spotty pattern, as punticulata is derived from a Latin noun meaning ‘small dot’ (2) (3).                

First described as recently as 1998, Cobitis puncticulata has a small head, with a slightly arched mouth and three pairs of long barbels. The lips are very finely furrowed, and the eyes are placed relatively far forward on the head. There is a blackish stripe from the eyes to the tip of the snout, and a dark stripe stretching along the side of the body, to the base of the tail. There are also rows of dark grey dots on the dorsal and caudal fins (2) (3). The male Cobitis puncticulata tends to be smaller than the female (4).

Initially, Cobitis puncticulata was known only from the Karadere stream at the outlet of Manyas Lake, Turkey (1). However, surveys recently found it at two additional locations, both in Greece: a small stream running to the lower River Evros near the village of Lira, and in the River Ulubat at the road from Bursa to Ulubat (5).

Cobitis puncticulata lives in rather cold, well-oxygenated, slow-moving streams with muddy bottoms and much submerged vegetation (1).

Owing to its recent discovery and its rarity, there is very little information available on the biology and behaviour of Cobitis puncticulata, other than that it spawns in spring (2) (3).

Cyprinidae species usually have quite a diverse diet, and Cobitis puncticulata is likely to feed on a variety of insects, crustaceans, molluscs and some plant material. Members of the Cyprinidae family lack teeth in the jaws, but most have a pair of enlarged bones in the throat which possess structures known as ‘pharyngeal teeth’, used to process food (6).

At Manyas Lake, Cobitis puncticulata is threatened by water extraction, which is causing the water level to decrease. Industrial and agricultural activities are also polluting the waters (1). 

In Greece, however, the situation is very different, and this species’ habitat appears to be much more secure. In addition, small, densely vegetated streams have been poorly explored in this region of Greece, meaning that additional populations of Cobitis puncticulata are likely to be discovered in future (5). In light of this, some scientists argue that the status of Cobitis puncticulata on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species should be downgraded from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable (4) (5).

To reverse the decline of Cobitis puncticulata at Manyas Lake, the water level should be controlled and habitat loss prevented. Across this species’ range, there is also a need for further studies into its population size and biology (4).

Find out more about Cobitis puncticulata:

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:

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2011)
  2. Erkakan, F., Atalay-Ekmekçi, F.C. and Nalbant, T.T. (1998) Four new species and one new subspecies of the genus Cobitis (Pisces: Ostariophysi: Cobitidae) from Turkey. Turkish Journal of Zoology, 22: 9-15.
  3. Erkakan, F., Atalay-Ekmekçi, F.C. and Nalbant, T.T. (1999) A review of the genus Cobitis in Turkey (Pisces: Ostariophysi: Cobitidae). Hydrobiologia, 403: 13-26.
  4. Ekemkçi, F.G., Kirankaya, S.G. and Turan, D. (2010) Threatened Fishes of the World, Cobitis puncticulata (Erk’akan, Atalay-Ekmekçi & Nalbant, 1998) (Cobitidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes, 87: 217-218.
  5. Freyhof, J., Stelbrink, B., Özulug, M. and Economidis, P.S. (2008) First record of Cobitis puncticulata from Europe with comments on its conservation status (Teleostei: Cobitidae). Folia Zoologica, 57: 16-19.
  6. Campbell, A. and Dawes, J. (2004) Encyclopedia of Underwater Life. Oxford University Press, Oxford.