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Newly discovered fish named after Barack Obama

Washington:  A newly discovered species of colourful, freshwater fish has been named after US President Barack Obama due to his "global vision of environmental protection and conservation", scientists say.

Five new species of freshwater fish called darters have been discovered in river drainage in eastern North America and named after four US Presidents and a Vice-President, Scientific American Running Ponies blog reported.

Darters are the smallest members of the perch family, and are named after their ability to zip around, under and into rocks and sediment on the beds of clean, fast-moving waterways.

Almost 200 darter species have so far been discovered, most of which live in the rivers and creeks of northern Alabama and eastern Tennessee. They are one of the most diverse groups of native North American fishes.

The first of the new species to be described by the researchers in a paper to be published by the Bulletin of the Alabama Museum of Natural History is the spangled darter (Etheostoma obama), the males of which are resplendent in bright orange and iridescent blue spots, stripes and checks.

"We chose President Obama for his environmental leadership, particularly in the areas of clean energy and environmental protection, and because he is one of our first leaders to approach conservation and environmental protection from a more global vision," said researcher Steve Layman from Geosyntec Consultants in Georgia.

Endemic to the Duck and Buffalo Rivers of the Tennessee River drainage, the males can grow up to 48 mm long, while the largest females reach just up to 43 mm.

While conducting an examination of breeding colour variation among population of the common speckled darter (Etheostoma stigmaeum), Layman and Rick Mayden from the Department of Biology at Saint Louis University discovered that some of these populations were so different, they were actually separate species.

"We collected live breeding males (in the spring), photographed them, and took detailed colour notes throughout the range of E stigmaeum and the other species in the subgenus (Doration)," Mr Layman was quoted as saying by the blog.

"What we found was those populations in the highland drainages of Tennessee, Kentucky and the Ozarks were quite different in colouration from the populations of E stigmaeum from Gulf coastal drainages and the lower Mississippi River basin," Mr Layman said.

The other who are honoured include former US Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Vice-president Al Gore.

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