The Akawaio penak is a new genus of electric fish that was found in South AmericaNathan Lujan/University of Tor

Even after decades of research and documentation, there are organisms that are still unknown. Researchers have now found a new genus of electric fish called the Akawalo penak in shallow, murky waters of a river in South America.

The discovery was made by team of researchers that included University of Toronto Scarborough professor Nathan Lovejoy. The thin, eel-like fish was found in the upper Mazaruni River in northern Guyana. The fish is so unique that it represents a genus, a taxonomic classification higher than a species.

The upper Mazaruni River might be home to many more unique creatures, researchers said.  The area has been cut-off from the rest of the continent for about 30 million years due to the various rivers and series of uplands.

"The fact this area is so remote and has been isolated for such a long time means you are quite likely to find new species," says Lovejoy.

The fish is named after Akawaio Amerindians, the people that live in the region. Gold mining in the area has left little freshwater for the inhabitants of this unique place.

"The Mazaruni contains many unique species that aren't found anywhere else in the world. It's an extremely important area in South America in terms of biodiversity," said Lovejoy, according to a news release.

Akawaio penak has a long, slender organ running along the length of its body that produces an electric field. The electricity produced by the fish is too weak to be used as a weapon to kill prey, instead the fish uses it to navigate the murky waters of the river.

The study is published in the journal Zoologica Scripta.

Quick Links