The newly identified species all belong to the genus Cobitis, ground-living freshwater fish from the family of the spined loach. Their conspicuous colour patterns are not only beautiful to look at, but also serve biologists to distinguish one species from another. Because the populations are very similar, the researchers took both molecular and morphological characteristics such as colour patterns into account.
For example, they used specimens from wet collections and descriptive material, some of which dates from the 1950s and 1970s. This is also how new species can be discovered, although they no longer exist – such as Cobitis amphilekta and C. kellei. Without this kind of old material a description afterwards would not be possible.
The researchers' result: a comprehensive revision of the genus in the Middle East and new identification keys for about 30 species. "Not all fish species of the genus are known yet and further new descriptions will follow in the future", said Jörg Freyhof.