Puta-O region, located in the Northernmost part of Myanmar, is one of the world's highest biodiversity hotspots and the species richness is extremely high. Since December 2014, researchers from Kunming Institute of Zoology (KIZ)/Southeast Asia Biodiversity Research Institute (SEARBI), Chinese Academy of Sciences have collected some fish specimens during the surveys of the Mali Hka River drainage in Puta-O, North Kachin. After cooperative study by Dr. ZHENG Lanping from Prof. YANG Junxing’s Lab, QIN Tao and Prof. CHEN Xiaoyong, a new species of cyprinid fish was identified and named as Altigena malihkaia. The research result was published in Zootaxa in September 2018.
Most species of Genus Altigena was classified to Bangana in the early years. Bangana was erected as a subgenus of Cyprinus by Hamilton and further defined by Rainboth and Kullander et al. Five species of Bangana were recognized as Bangana sensu stricto, the remaining species with continuous postlabial groove were revalidated as Altigena Burton, 1934. Up to now, eight species were certainly included within Altigena.
Altigena malihkaia is distinguished from all other genera of Labeonini by the combination of a thick, pendulous rostral fold, upper lip closely adnate to upper jaw, upper and lower lips continuous around corner of mouth, continuous postlabial groove, pair of mental grooves, one pair of maxillary barbels, and 10–11 branched dorsal-fin rays. It differs from the congeneric species by having 12–14 circum-peduncular scales, 17–20 pre-dorsal midline scales, wide head (96.8–138.5% HL), longer postorbital length (64.6–81.0% HL), and short dorsal fin (21.9–26.2% SL).
Altigena malihkaia is known only from the upper reach of Mali Hka River, a tributary of Irrawaddy River in Myanmar. This species occurs in the sluggish zone of the main stream at an altitude of 539 meters, particularly in areas about 2–3 meters deep.
The discovery of this new large sized fish further verifies the richness and uniqueness of the biodiversity of Northern Myanmar.