Operation ‘Save the asprete’, the Romanian fish that swam with the dinosaurs

Marcel Gascon

Bucharest, Nov 18 (efe-epa).- For most of us, dinosaurs are an almost mythological species, brought to life only by museums and the movies. Sixty-five million years after their extinction, a species of freshwater fish found in southeastern Europe is one of the few remaining links that connect us to that deep, pre-historic past.

It is the asprete, or “Romanichthys valsanicola” in Latin, a fish that has been around since the age of the dinosaurs, but of which about only about 15 specimens remain along a one kilometer stretch of the Valsan riverbed in central Romania.


Due to the nocturnal habits of this living fossil, and the fact that it spends most of the day hidden under the rocks, the asprete is a very difficult animal to see; even for those who spend all their time studying it.

But, in a stroke of luck, a group of scientists and activists working to prevent its extinction found a group of 12 aspretes last month, and were even able to record them for the delight of lovers of this species, which the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) describes as “critically endangered”.

“This is probably the first time that this fish has been recorded in its natural habitat since the species was discovered,” mountaineer and conservationist Alex Gavan, who spent part of his childhood on the banks of the Valsan River and is the most active ambassador for the cause to save the asprete, told Efe.

The video in which 12 aspretes can be seen, Gavan explains, is a cause for hope, as it confirms the survival of the species and points out that the population could likely exceed the estimated 15 specimens.


This species, whose origins date back some 65 million years, was discovered in 1956 by the Romanian biology student Nicolae Stoica.

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