Genetic Diversity Amongst Sri Lanka’s ‘Spa Fish’ Highlights Need for Informed Conservation

Sri Lanka’s fast-flowing freshwater streams are home to a variety of beautiful fish, which, as a rule, swiftly swim away if you dip your feet into the water. But not so the welcoming “stone suckers” (Garra ceylonensis), renowned for their use in “fish spas,” where they nibble away at the dead skin cells of visitors’ feet.

They’re also among the most widely distributed of Sri Lanka’s freshwater fish. Now, a new study into that distribution shows that while G. ceylonensis populations in different river basins around the island are physically identical — in size, body patterns, color — they differ genetically.

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