Channa is a genus of predatory fish in the family Channidae, commonly known as snakehead, native to freshwater habitats in Asia. This genus contains more than 45 scientifically described species. The genus has a wide natural distribution extending from Iraq in the west, to Indonesia and China in the east, and parts of Siberia in the Far East. A particularly high richness exists in Myanmar (Burma) and northeastern India, and many Channa species live nowhere else. In contrast, a few widespread species have been introduced to several regions outside their natural range where they often become invasive. The large and medium-sized Channa species are among the most common staple food fish in several Asian countries and they are extensively cultured. Apart from their importance as a food fish, snakeheads are consumed in some regions as a traditional medicine for wound healing and reducing post-operative pain and discomfort, and collected for the international aquarium pet trade.
|Channa micropeltes (above, one of the largest species) and C. bleheri (below, one of the smallest)|
Bloch & J. G. Schneider, 1801
|Combined natural range of the Channa species|
Bostrychoides Lacépède, 1801
All snakeheads are highly predatory and the diets of the various species of Channa include fish, amphibians (like frogs), snakes, rodents, birds and invertebrates (like insects and crustaceans). They have a labyrinth organ, which allows them to breathe air for short periods, and they use this adaptation to travel across land in the event that their habitat becomes inhospitable. They are mostly solitary or live in monogamous pairs that are highly aggressive towards outsiders of their own species, but C. pleurophthalma often occurs in small groups. Larger species are mostly nestbrooding (making a nest of vegetation at the water surface), and the dwarfs mostly paternal mouthbrooding, but there are exceptions: the large C. barca is a paternal mouthbrooder and the dwarf C. bleheri is a free-spawner (the eggs float to the surface where the parents take care of them, but they do not mouthbrood or built a nest).
The taxonomy of the genus Channa is incomplete and a comprehensive revision of the family has not been performed. A phylogenetic study in 2010 has indicated the likelihood of the existence of undescribed species of channids in Southeast Asia, and a more comprehensive phylogenetic study in 2017 indicated that there are several undescribed species in Asia (as well as an undescribed Parachanna in Africa). In 2011, the Malabar snakehead Channa diplogramma from peninsular India was shown to be a distinct species, 146 years after its initial description and 134 years after it was synonymised with C. micropeltes, establishing it is an endemic species of peninsular India. The study also suggested that the species shared a most recent common ancestor with C. micropeltes, around 9.52 to 21.76 MYA.
- Channa amphibeus (McClelland, 1845) (Borna snakehead)
- Channa andrao Britz, 2013
- Channa argus (Cantor, 1842) (Northern snakehead)
- Channa asiatica (Linnaeus, 1758) (Small snakehead)
- Channa aurantimaculata Musikasinthorn, 2000
- Channa aurantipectoralis Lalhlimpuia, Lalronunga & Lalramliana, 2016
- Channa bankanensis (Bleeker, 1853)
- Channa baramensis (Steindachner, 1901)
- Channa barca (F. Hamilton, 1822) (Barca snakehead)
- Channa bipuli Praveenraj, Uma, Moulitharan & Bleher, 2018
- Channa bleheri Vierke, 1991 (Rainbow snakehead)
- Channa burmanica B. L. Chaudhuri, 1919
- Channa cyanospilos (Bleeker, 1853)
- Channa diplogramma (F. Day, 1865) (Malabar snakehead)
- Channa gachua (F. Hamilton, 1822) (Dwarf snakehead)
- Channa harcourtbutleri (Annandale, 1918) (Burmese snakehead)
- Channa hoaluensis Nguyen, 2011
- Channa kelaartii (Günther, 1861)
- Channa limbata (Cuvier, 1831)
- Channa lipor Praveenraj, Uma, Moulitharan & Singh, 2019
- Channa lucius (G. Cuvier, 1831)
- Channa maculata (Lacépède, 1801) (Blotched snakehead)
- Channa marulioides (Bleeker, 1851)
- Channa marulius (F. Hamilton, 1822) (Great snakehead)
- Channa melanoptera (Bleeker, 1855)
- Channa melanostigma Geetakumari & Vishwanath, 2011
- Channa melasoma (Bleeker, 1851) (Black snakehead)
- Channa micropeltes (G. Cuvier, 1831) (Giant snakehead)
- Channa ninhbinhensis V. H. Nguyễn, 2011
- Channa nox C. G. Zhang, Musikasinthorn & Watanabe, 2002 (Night snakehead)
- Channa orientalis Bloch & J. G. Schneider, 1801 (Ceylon snakehead)
- Channa ornatipinnis Britz, 2008
- Channa panaw Musikasinthorn, 1998 (Panaw snakehead)
- Channa pardalis Knight, 2016
- Channa pleurophthalma (Bleeker, 1851)
- Channa pomanensis Gurumayum & Tamang, 2016
- Channa pseudomarulius (Günther, 1861)
- Channa pulchra Britz, 2007
- Channa punctata (Bloch, 1793) (Spotted snakehead)
- Channa quinquefasciata Praveenraj et al., 2018
- Channa royi Praveenraj et al., 2018 (Andaman emerald snakehead)
- Channa shingon M. Endruweit, 2017)
- Channa stewartii (Playfair (fr), 1867) (Assamese snakehead)
- Channa stiktos Lalramliana, Knight, Lalhlimpuia & Singh, 2018
- Channa striata (Bloch, 1793) (Striped snakehead)
- Channa torsaensis Dey, Nur, Raychowdhury, Sarkar, Singh & Barat, 2018 (Cobalt blue channa)
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- Nguyen, V.H. (2011): Two new species belong to genus Channa (Channidae, Perciformes) discovered in Ninh Binh province, Vietnam. Vietnam Journal of Biology, 33 (4): 8-17.
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