Spotlight on Species



 Belontia signata

 Combtail is one of the beautiful endemic fish species in Sri Lanka. It can be found slow moving streams in the wet zone forest areas and foot hills of Knuckles mountain region. Mature males have elongated filamenets on its Pelvic and caudal fin. It will grow up to  6-9 cm in length. Due to habitat loss and over collection, it has identified as Nationally Near Threatened species.

Sharkhead snakeskink

Sharkhead snakeskink

 Nessia hickanala Deraniyagala, 1940

English name: Sharkhead snakeskink

Nessia hickanala is a limbless skink which lives beneath the ground. It can be easily identified from other limbless species by its shark shaped head (shorten lower jaw). It has a thin snake like body and its body colour is pinkish white.  Body length reaches up to 10cm (snout to tail end).

This species is considered as a Nationally Critically Threatened due to its limited distribution and habitat destructions. Nessia hickanala is restricted to Wilpattu National park and Aruvakkalu area in the arid zone of Sri Lanka.

Martenstyn's barb

Systomus martenstyni (Martenstyn's barb)

 Identification: Outer boarder of the dorsal , caudal, anal, and pelvic fins is reddish. Oval shaped black blotch at the base of the caudal peduncle. Six to seven lateral longitudinal dotted lines can be visible. Two pair of barbles  present. Total length 14-25cm.

Habitat: Fast flowing streams and large rivers with rocky substrate.

Distribution: Endemic to Sri Lanka. Confined to tributaries of  Mahaweli river around the north and eastern slopes of the Knuckles mountain area.

Threats and Conservation: Habitat loss and  population reduction due to hydro projects and illegal fishing activities. Listed as Endangered (EN) in the Global Red List.  

(photo: Sampath de A Goonatilake @IUCN Sri Lanka)

Suncus cf. etruscus

Pigmy Shrew (Suncus etrucus)

This is indeed ‘pigmy’ news in the history of a limestone quarry site at Aruvakkalu. Our fellow biodiversity expert, Sampath De A. Goonatilake while at the limestone quarry site earlier this year ‘stumbled’ upon this tiny shrew, no bigger than that of a watch strap in size.

The Etruscan shrew (Suncus etruscus), also known as the Etruscan pygmy shrew or the white-toothed pygmy shrew is the smallest known mammal by mass, weighing only about 1.8 grams on average.

This pigmy shrew grows up to about 4 cm in body length excluding the tail. It is characterized by very rapid movements and a fast metabolism, eating about 1.5–2 times its own body weight per day. It feeds on various small vertebrates and invertebrates, mostly insects, and can hunt individuals of the same size as itself. It has widely distributed from Europe to Malaysia including North Africa. In Sri Lanka it has identified as a Data Deficient Species (DD) due to its cryptic life. However recent phylogenetic studies suggest that Sri Lankan population evolutionary has different lineage from European population.

Quite a find indeed !!!

You may obtain more information on this species of mammalia from Sampath De A. Goonatilake at the following details.


Sampath De A. Goonatilake

Programme Officer

IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature,

Sri Lanka Office

53, Horton Place

Colombo 7, SRI LANKA

Tel (Switch Board): (+94 11) 268 2418; ext 308

Hand: (+94 77) 395 0641;

Fax: (+94 11) 268 2470



Contributed by Candice Perera, IUCN Sri Lanka Country Office

Sri Lanka Spiny Mouse

Sri Lanka Spiny Mouse

Mus  fernandoni Phillips, 1932

English name: Sri Lanka Spiny Mouse

Sinhala name: Sri Lanka katu meeya; Podi meeya

Tamil name: Sund’ elli

Threatened status: Critically Endangered (CR) according to Red List of Threatened fauna and Flora of Sri Lanka, 2007

A small mouse with spiny dorsal fur intermixed with short fine hair. It differs from its close relative Mus mayori from having relatively large eyes and ears. M. fernandoni is grayish brown on its back and pure white underneath. The length of the tail (56-78mm) is shorter than the total length of the head and body (90-101mm).  

The species name honour’ the late Mr. H. F. Fernando, the taxidermist of the National Museum Colombo, person who first discovered this endemic mouse  from Kubalgamuwa in Mulhalkelle, Central Province in 1931. , Thereafter it  has been recorded from Kumana (Eastern Province),  Galge  (Uva Province), Butawa and Yala (Southern Province). This nocturnal and forest loving species can be found in tropical rain forests, dry mixed evergreen forests, and among shrub vegetations.

Its lifestyle and ecology have not been not fully understood yet and habitat destruction is believed to be a major threat.  

Photograph: Sampath Goonatilake 

IUCN Sri Lanka