A West Virginia University professor has discovered a new species of fish in the lower Elk River near Charleston.

Stuart Welsh, assistant professor in the Wildlife and Fisheries Resources Program in the Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences, named the new species Crystallaria cincotta , ordiamond darter.

His findings were recently published in Zootaxa, an international journal for animal taxonomists.

The diamond darter is a close relative of the crystal darter ( Crystallaria asprella ), a small fish found in the drainage basins of the Mississippi River. Diamond darters are translucent; adults range from 3-5 inches long.

The name references the sparkle from reflected light when viewed with lights during nighttime collections. It also fits the analogy of a diamond as a rare crystal.

For a number of reasons, including alterations of the river and water quality issues, the distribution and population size of diamond darters have been greatly reduced in the Ohio River basin.

The discovery of a new species furthers our understanding and recognition of biodiversity, Welsh said.

If there is one fun and exciting thing about science, then it is the discovery of new things,he said.Discovering and describing a new species is directly linked to discovering the diversity of life.

I think many people would agree that diversity of life is amazing, and the discovery of the diamond darter is just one more addition to the wild and wonderful diversity of life that abounds in West Virginia andat a much wider windowis an addition to the biodiversity of North America.

After careful inspection, Welsh and his colleagues found there are distinct differences between the diamond darter and populations of the closely-related crystal darter. These include fewer cheek scales, sickle-shaped pelvic fins, a dark spot in front of the eye and a wide mouth gape.

The discovery of a new species in West Virginia is not something that happens every day,Welsh said.To our knowledge, the diamond darters found in the Elk River represent the only known extant population of this species.

The new species was named after Dan Cincotta, fishery biologist for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and adjunct professor of ichthyology at WVU , in recognition of his substantial contributions toward management and conservation of the biodiversity of fishes in West Virginia.