The following is excerpted from Freshwater Fishes of the Arabian Peninsula, a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive field guide that provides detailed and illustrated information about the little known and often ignored Arabian freshwater fish. The book is intended to enlighten and appeal to both scientific professionals and non-specialists alike. A must-have for naturalists, conservationists and citizen scientists based in the Arabian region who are keen to discover the fishes occurring in their area, and for professionals and amateurs everywhere who are interested in the biodiversity of Arabia and the biodiversity and evolution of freshwater fishes in general.


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The Arabian Peninsula hosts the world’s third-largest warm desert, after the Sahara and inland Australia. Although the Peninsula is almost as large as India, its biodiversity is relatively poor. This is true for many groups of animals and plants but especially for biodiversity associated with freshwater ecosystems. While about 1,000 native species of freshwater fishes are found in India, just 31 have been recorded in Arabia. Even this small fauna is poorly known and a number of new species have been described in the last few years.

Indeed, in this book we have recognised considerably more freshwater fish species than in earlier studies. Before 1977, only five species of freshwater fishes were known from Arabia, with this number increasing to nine in 1977; 13 in 1983; and 21 by 2015, when the last checklist was published. Still more species are expected to be discovered in the future as new information and collections become available, especially in remote areas of Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Nevertheless, it is not surprising that the overall number of freshwater fish species in Arabia remains relatively small. Permanent freshwater springs, streams and wetlands are exceptionally few in the vast desert landscapes of the Arabian Peninsula. The freshwater fishes that are found there are the hardy survivors of a continuing extinction crisis resulting from the aridification of what was once an extensive network of rivers and wetlands spanning the region. This makes Arabian fishes especially interesting subjects for research and conservation.

But why are Arabian freshwater fishes relevant? Is anything likely to change very much if all endemic Arabian freshwater fish species became extinct? They may seem to provide few services to humans, but they represent a distinctive element of local natural heritage. People, too, are attracted to and congregate at the same remaining pools, streams and wetlands. Today, this is often for recreation and enjoyment, but freshwater ecosystems have also been the focus of human habitation, land use systems and religious practices for thousands of years. In Arabia, humans have faced many of the same challenges as the fish fauna. Freshwater fishes and their habitats are just like historical monuments – the products of so many years of natural history, so easily destroyed, forever, for short-term interests. A better understanding and appreciation of those fishes and their habitats can help prevent gratuitous biodiversity loss and encourage humans to live in harmony with nature.

This book provides an up-to-date overview of the freshwater fish species known today from the Arabian Peninsula. Each species is illustrated by colour photos, and a map shows all the records available from published research and the authors’ own data and inquiries. This volume is designed as a comprehensive resource for anyone interested to learn more about Arabian freshwater fish biodiversity. It will also prove useful for those who want to actively study fish generally. Identification keys, diagnoses and detailed manuals are provided, offering a guide to preserving, photographing and examining fishes and documenting data collected in the field, not only in Arabia but all over the world.

We hope this book not only inspires readers to embrace conservation, but to visit their local wadis and witness the region’s unheralded biodiversity with their own eyes.


Geographic Coverage

For the purposes of this book, the Arabian Peninsula includes all of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, including its coastal islands and the Socotra Archipelago.


Species Coverage

All native species of freshwater fishes recorded from the Arabian Peninsula are included in the accounts presented below, including primary, secondary, diadromous and sporadic species (see text box on page 6 for definitions). Accidental species are excluded, because there are many coastal species occasionally found above the brackish water line.

For the above purposes, records of occurrence have been recognised only if they are associated with reliable locality data and identifications. No primary freshwater fish species are known from Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar.

Introduced alien species are included only if they have established self-sustaining populations.


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Freshwater Fishes of the Arabian Peninsula is priced at AED 80.