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PENANG, Malaysia -- A Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) scientist has discovered a 10mm fish at maturity, believed to be the second smallest fish in the world, in a peat swamp in Perak.
The unidentified new species was discovered by USM's School of Biology lecturer Assoc Prof Dr Khoo Khay Huat recently during his research at the peat swamp and the biological aspects, including the species and its breeding pattern, were still under study.
Dr Khoo said the fish was found living in dark tea-coloured waters with an acidity of between pH4 and pH5, which is close to that of vinegar.
The fish was unofficially called "Perak fish" and the study to identify its genus and species was still ongoing and was expected to be ready within a year, he told reporters here.
He also said that before the discovery of "Perak fish", he discovered a 1.2cm fish of the "Paedocypris Mecromegethes" species in Sungai Gayau, Mukah, Sarawak, about a month ago.
He said the name for the species was derived from the Greek word "Paideios" which means children and "Micromegethes" meaning small in size.
"So, we call it a childlike fish. We also believe that the two fishes are from the same genus but from a different species," he added.
He said extensive studies would be carried out immediately before their habitat disappears completely due to widespread forest destruction and major development around the peat swamps to turn them into oil palm plantations.
The Sungai Gayau peat swamp would be developed soon to make way for oil palm plantations and he was worried that the species would not survive, he said.
Dr Khoo said he and his team would be going to Sumatra to do a comparative study on the two species with the smallest fish in the world found in the peat swamps in Jambi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
The fish, known as "Jambi", was 7.9mm long at maturity and was found in pools of dark tea-coloured water with an acidity of PH3, which is at least 100 times more acidic than rain water.
The tiny, see-through "Jambi" fish had the appearance of a larva and had a reduced head skeleton, which leaves the brain unprotected by bone, and was similar to the species found in Sungai Gayau.
Meanwhile, School of Biology Dean Prof Mashhor Mansor said the study would also be carried out at other peat swamps around the country, including Selangor, Perak, Johor and Pahang, to find other species which had not been discovered or documented.