Three "gorgeously ugly" fish looking for mate before they go extinct

Illustration for article titled Three "gorgeously ugly" fish looking for mate before they go extinct

The Mangarahara cichlid is a fish native to the rivers of Madagascar — or, at least, it was. It's thought that the fish has gone extinct in the wild, and the only three survivors are in a pair of European zoos. But these three fish are all male, old, ugly... and liable to kill any fish that tries to breed with them.


At least, that's what happened to the last known female member of the species, as a breeding program with the male at the Berlin Zoo ended with it killing its would-be partner, which has to rank as one of the most spectacularly grim ways to doom one's own species to extinction. As London Zoo aquarium curator Brian Zimmerman explains to the BBC, that is a distressingly common result for species like this, and it now means they have to appeal to private owners worldwide in a last-ditch effort to find one more female:

"It's a fairly common thing with cichlids. They are unusual fish compared to many in that they practice pair bonding and parental care of the eggs and the fry, so there's a lot of tussling that goes on between them... They are not a particularly beautiful fish - they are gorgeously ugly, they are unusual. They are more a connoisseur's type of fish. They need quite a bit of space; the males are bigger than your hand, and they need a decent tank."

Both of the specimens at the London Zoo are about 12 years old, which places them towards the end of their normal lifespan. The Zoological Society of London has already reached out to zoos and aquariums in search of a female, which means the only chance now is for a private collector to come forward. But Zimmerman says the odds of finding a female in time aren't good, and even then it may well just be delaying the inevitable; even if new cichlids were indeed produced, Zimmerman says the growing global shortage of available freshwater means this species might no longer have an environment to return to.

Still, if you, by some miracle, do actually know of a female Mangarahara cichlid — and judging by the above description, they're rather unmistakable — then the people to contact are at

Via BBC News. Image by Bjoertvedt on Wikimedia.



When I hear stories like this, and I say this with an ecology degree, I frankly just anthropomorphise the issue into one of stupidity and deserving to die. You know what organisms don't have complex mating requirements and eat their suitors? SUCCESSFUL ONES. If they evolved because of their uniquely nuanced niche to express overcomplicated mating to the point where lone and lonely males in the unstressed environment of captivity literally can't even fuck to save their lives despite our best efforts and kill the last females rather than shag with fury... fuck 'em. Same goes for pandas. Don't waste the time and money that could be spent on something with the god damn sense to behave in its own interest and display a healthy sexual appetite.