New Panaque subspecies causes controversy

The Watermelon pleco L330 has a new scientific name.

“I’m happy to announce the description of Panaque nigrolineatus laurafabianae, a new distinctly coloured subspecies of wood-eating loricariid from the Guaviare River basin of Colombia.” Said American Museum of Natural History’s Nathan Lujan on Facebook.

“The species is named in honour of Laura Fabiana, the only daughter of first author Armando Ortega LaraCongratulations Laura Fabiana!”

L330 was up until now referred to as Panque cf. nigrolineatus, looking identical to the Royal panaque, Panaque nigrolineatus, apart from its spotted pattern, rather than the true Royal’s stripes.

cf. means “compares to,” but when a new species is described it usually carries a new species name. Panaque nigrolineatus laurafabianae carries the same species name but with it a new subspecies name, laurafabianae.

And this is where the controversy lies, as many taxonomists say that subspecies should no longer be used, and if a species is different enough to erect a subspecies, it should, in fact, be a new, different species.

The joy of the internet and social media is that the actual scientists involved are as accessible as your friends and family, and the debate is going on right now. So look up Nathan Lujan, his co-author or if you have the access, go to the journal description here.

Featured image is of Panaque nigrolineatus. If you have an image of L330 you can let FKN use, please get in touch.

pl:user:lcamtuf / CC BY-SA (

Jeremy Gay

Author of three fishkeeping books and lifelong fishkeeper. Experience includes editor of Practical Fishkeeping magazine, editor of Pet Product Marketing magazine, multi award- winning livestock manager and aquatic store manager.