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Temporal range: Pliocene - Recent
Bagarius rutilus.jpg
Bagarius rutilus
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Siluriformes
Family: Sisoridae
Subfamily: Sisorinae
Genus: Bagarius
Bleeker, 1854
Type species
Pimelodus bagarius
Hamilton, 1822

Bagarius (Thai: ปลาแค้) is an Asian genus of catfishes (order Siluriformes) of the family Sisoridae. It includes four extant species, (see below), and one extinct species, B. gigas.


There are currently four recognized, extant species in this genus: [1]


Bagarius species inhabit south and southeast Asia.[2] They are distributed in the Indus drainage in Pakistan and India, east (including peninsular India) to the Red River drainage in Vietnam and south throughout Indochina including the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia.[3] B. bagarius is known from the Ganges River, Chao Phraya, and the Mekong drainages, as well as the Malay Peninsula and the Salween and Mae Klong drainages and the Brahmaputra River and Ayeyarwady River.[3] B. suchus originates from the Mekong and Chao Phraya basins.[3] B. rutilus inhabits the Red River and Ma River in northern Vietnam.[3] B. yarelli is widely distributed in southern and southeastern Asia.[4]

Fossil record[edit]

Reconstruction of the extinct species, B. gigas, from the Paleogene of Sumatra

B. gigas is reportedly from the Eocene of Sumatra, but the age of the locale has been questioned.[4]

The oldest known confirmed sisorid fossil is B. bagarius found in Sumatra and India of the Pliocene.[5]


Bagarius species have a broad head that is moderately or strongly depressed. The mouth is broad and terminal or slightly inferior. The gill openings are wide. The dorsal fin and pectoral fins have strong spines. The dorsal fin spine is smooth, and the pectoral fin spine is smooth anteriorly and finely serrate posteriorly. The dorsal, pectoral, and caudal fin lobes sometimes with filamentous extensions. The head and body is entirely or almost entirely covered by heavily keratinized skin superficially differentiated into unculiferous plaques or tubercles. Bagarius species lack a thoracic adhesive apparatus and paired fins are unplaited.[2]

Bagarius species have the same general colour pattern consisting of three darkly pigmented bands or blotches on the body. Irregularly placed spots may also be present on the body. The fin pigmentation varies from species to species, from plain, to spotted, to slightly or heavily barred.[2] Also, some B. yarelli may have a heavily spotted pattern like a Dalmatian dog that obscures the main barred pattern.[2]

In B. bagarius, the pelvic fin origin is normally anterior to a vertical line through the base of the last dorsal fin ray, while in B. yarelli the pelvic fin origin is posterior to this vertical line. Also, in most B. bagarius, the adipose fin originates far back over the anal fin, on a vertical through the base of the third or four anal fin ray. However, in most B. yarelli, the adipose fin originates near or in front of a vertical line through the anal fin origin. In B. suchus, the adipose fin originates even further back than in B. bagarius or B. yarelli. B. suchus tends to have a flatter head and body than either B. bagarius or B. yarelli.[2]

B. bagarius does not grow much past 20 centimetres (7.9 in) SL.[2] B. rutilus grows to about 100.0 cm (39.4 in) SL.[6] B. suchus grows to about 70.0 cm (27.6 in) SL.[7] B. yarelli grows very large, reaching about 200 cm (78.7 in) SL.[2]


B. bagarius inhabits rapid and rocky pools of large and medium-sized rivers.[8] B. suchus is usually associated with rapids in the large rivers it inhabits.[7] B. yarelli occurs in large rivers on the bottom, even with swift current, never entering small streams. It is found among boulders, often in the white water of the rapids where it apparently is indifferent to the strong current.[9]

B. bagarius is primarily entomophagous.[2] It also feeds on small fishes, frogs and shrimps.[8] B. suchus, however, is a piscivore.[2] B. yarelli feeds primarily on prawns but also eat small fishes and aquatic insects.[2]

B. bagarius and B. yarelli breed in rivers prior to the beginning of the annual flood season.[8][9]

B. yarelli migrates in schools. It is reported to migrate to follow its prey. It is also reported that it follows Catlocarpio siamensis during its upstream migration. Apparently the main upstream migration begins close to the peak of flood, when the current is very strong and the water is turbid.[9]

Relationship to humans[edit]

Bagarius species are marketed fresh, and are important as a food fish, but the meat spoils rapidly and can cause illness.[7][8][9] The Goonch catfish B. yarrelli has become an object of media attention as reports have surfaced of some of these fish feeding on funeral pyres in the Kali River.[10] There is speculation that some drownings have also been caused by large specimens that have "developed a taste" for human flesh from the corpses and subsequently have attacked bathers in the river. This is the subject of a TV documentary aired on 22 October 2008,[11] as well as an episode about the Kali River goonch attacks on the Animal Planet series River Monsters.


  1. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2012). Species of Bagarius in FishBase. February 2012 version.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Roberts, Tyson R. (1983). "Revision of the South and Southeast Asian Sisorid Catfish Genus Bagarius, with Description of a New Species from the Mekong". Copeia. 1983 (2): 435–445. doi:10.2307/1444387. JSTOR 1444387. 
  3. ^ a b c d Thomson, Alfred W.; Page, Lawrence M. (2006). "Genera of the Asian Catfish Families Sisoridae and Erethistidae (Teleostei: Siluriformes)" (PDF). Zootaxa. 1345: 1–96. 
  4. ^ a b Ferraris, Carl J., Jr. (2007). "Checklist of catfishes, recent and fossil (Osteichthyes: Siluriformes), and catalogue of siluriform primary types" (PDF). Zootaxa. 1418: 1–628. 
  5. ^ Zhou, Wei; Yang, Ying; Li, Xu; Li, Ming-Hui (2007). "A Review of the Catfish Genus Pseudexostoma (Siluriformes: Sisoridae) with Description of a New Species from the Upper Salween (Nujiang) Basin of China" (PDF). The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology. 55 (1): 147–155. 
  6. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2007). "Bagarius rutilus" in FishBase. July 2007 version.
  7. ^ a b c Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2007). "Bagarius suchus" in FishBase. July 2007 version.
  8. ^ a b c d Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2007). "Bagarius bagarius" in FishBase. July 2007 version.
  9. ^ a b c d Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2007). "Bagarius yarelli" in FishBase. July 2007 version.
  10. ^ Mutant fish develops a taste for human flesh in India
  11. ^ Cox, Emma (8 October 2008). "Mutant fish called Goonch." London: The Sun. Retrieved 2008-10-10.