The his­tory of dis­cov­ery of the Licorice Gouramis has lasted for 150 years

The dis­cov­ery of these fish began 150 years ago and is not com­plete today.

In 1859, the Dutch ichthy­ol­o­gist, Pieter Bleeker, dis­cov­ered a small labyrinth fish that no one knew, dur­ing an ichthy­olog­i­cal field study on the island of Bangka. He described it as Osphrone­mus deiss­neri. In 1877 how­ever, he con­sid­ered the dif­fer­ences to the known species of that genus as too sig­nif­i­cant and there­fore decided to set up a new genus Parosphromenus for this small sin­gle fish. Unfor­tu­nately, the let­ters n and m were inter­changed and since then left in this posi­tions.
As we know now, this par­tic­u­lar fish was female and dur­ing its life­time it did not show the spec­tac­u­lar col­ors, for which the male fish of today’s genus Parosphromenus are famous. Even worse, the tail fin of the type spec­i­men was lost later and con­fu­sion about the true iden­tity of this fish con­tin­ued until today. In 1998, an updated descrip­tion and deposit of a new type spec­i­men by Ng and Kot­te­lat ended this con­fu­sion for­mally, but in fact the dis­cus­sion is still going on. It is unclear if the cor­rect type out of two species of Licorice Gourami occur­ing on Bangka Island, has been cho­sen for descrip­tion. The sec­ond form, dis­cov­ered on the island, was iden­ti­fied as P. bin­tan by these authors, as it was also found on the island of Bintan.

Until the begin­ning of 1950s, only one sin­gle type of Licorice Gourami was ”offi­cially” known: P. Deiss­neri. Deissneri (photo H.Kishi)In 1952 a sec­ond form showed up, for which the dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion was unde­ni­able due to its com­pletely dif­fer­ent appear­ance and color: P palu­di­cola, found in the very north of penin­sula Malaysia, described by the zoo­log­i­cal cura­tor of the Raf­fles Museum in Sin­ga­pore. 1955, the ichthy­ol­o­gist Klause­witz from Frank­furt described another Licorice Gourami, which he dis­cov­ered as a ”bycatch” at a Ger­man orna­men­tal fish importer’s. He addressed it cau­tiously as a sub­species of the first known type deiss­neri and described the fish as Parosphromenus deiss­neri suma­tranus. Only 40 years later Kub­ota, and shortly after this Kot­te­lat, rec­og­nized that P.sumatranus has to be regarded as a dis­tinct species. Wal­ter Foer­sch pub­lished detailed research find­ings on the nat­ural require­ments and on the breed­ing of this fish, which he hadreceived from 1968 onwards. This pushed the knowl­edge about the Licorice Gourami in the aquar­ium for­ward, but brought no gain in knowl­edge regard­ing the his­tory of dis­cov­ery, because he still believed he was deal­ing with P.deissneri. In fact the fish orig­i­nated from Ayer Hitam and thus it is likely he kept and inves­ti­gated what we know today as P.tweediei.

In 1979, again in Ger­many, the descrip­tion of another new species was pub­lished, which had been found one year pre­vi­ously in Bor­neo by Edith Korthaus, Alfred Han­ratty and the mar­ried cou­ple Foer­sch /​Palan­gan. Jörg Vierke named it P. parvu­lus. Two years later he described another new species (P. fil­a­men­to­sus), which was found close to Ban­jar­masin by the same dis­cov­er­ers. R. Ottinger dis­cov­ered another form of Licorice Gourami in 1984 close to Bukit Merah in West­ern Malaysia. This type, which he thought was some­thing par­tic­u­lar, was described as P. rub­ri­mon­tis only in 2005 by Kot­te­lat and Ng. The next ”new” species was P. nagyi, described 1985 by D. Schaller, fol­lowed by P. allani and P. har­veyi, named by Bar­bara Brown in 1987 in honor of her hus­band and of German-​British Paro pio­neer Willi Har­vey. By now it was clear that the old idea that there was only one species of Parosphromenus had become absolutely unsus­tain­able. So, espe­cially in the nineties, fur­ther new species were searched for, found and described. In 1990 Kot­te­lat found a form near Anjun­gan, which resem­bled parvu­lus, but was com­pletely dif­fer­ent in color. One year later he described it as P. orni­cau­data. In the same area, Neuge­bauer and Linke found another new Licorice Gourami species, which was described as P. anjun­ga­nen­sis by Kot­te­lat in the fol­low­ing year. The two dis­cov­er­ers caught another two unknown forms from close to Suka­mara in the South­west of Bor­neo, which were again described by Kot­te­lat as P. linkei in 1991 and (together with Ng) as P. opal­lius in 2005.,

In 1991 and 1992, Lim and Ng col­lected close to Kota Tinggi in Johore a fur­ther Licorice Gourami, which dif­fered sig­nif­i­cantly from the already known forms, later (2005) described as P. alfredi.
In 1996 Philipp Dick­mann and Frank Grams found Licorice Gouramis near Melak and Jen­gan Danum, which were described by Kot­te­lat in 2005 as P. pahuen­sis. In this descrip­tion an ”old case” was solved, because since the end of the thir­ties, some Licorice Gouramis with very red col­ored fins had been found in Johore close to Pon­toan and Ayer Hitam. This form was then described as an own species P. tweed­iei.

At the time of pub­li­ca­tion of this new descrip­tion, sev­eral other new forms of Parosphromenus were already known and since then fur­ther species have been added to the list, many of them still not sci­en­tif­i­cally iden­ti­fied. So up to now it is not clear if these new forms have a sta­tus of species or sub-​species, but it is very likely due to their devel­op­ment in sep­a­rate river sys­tems (adap­tive radiation).

All this means: even today the his­tory of dis­cov­ery of this genus is not yet completed.

(PF) (DA)

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