The Linnean Medal was awarded at a London ceremony to the first Sri Lankan possibly the 2nd Asian in its history: since 1888, the medal has been given annually to a botanist or a zoologist, or to one of each, in the same year.
28 May, 2022 | 05:47 a.m.
The prize of the Linnean Medal is populated with biodiversity titans like Richard Owen (who coined “dinosaurs”), Alfred Wallace, Darwin’s defenders Joseph Hooker and Thomas Huxley, and from the continent Alphonse de Candolle, one of the fathers of botany. There are also characters who remain historically unforgettable to biologists: Albert Günther, Ernst Haeckel, Willi Hennig, Stephen Jay Gould, Ernst Mayr, Alfred Romer, William Stearn, G. Ledyard Stebbins, D’Arcy Thompson and many more.
Dr. Rohan Pethiyagoda has played a critical role in the understanding and conservation of the astonishing freshwater fish diversity of Sri Lanka and the region more broadly, through original research and support for others.
His 1991 monumental Freshwater Fishes of Sri Lanka was hailed as a landmark achievement, treating the island’s diverse ichthyofauna more comprehensively and authoritatively than ever before.
Pethiyagoda has been responsible for the discovery and/or description of almost 100 new species of vertebrates from Sri Lanka, including fishes, amphibians and lizards, in addition to 43 species of freshwater crabs.
Several new species have been named in his honour, including the fishes Dawkinsia Rohani and Rasboroides Rohani; the microhylid frog Uperodon Rohani; the dragon lizard Calotes pethiyagodai; the jumping spider Onomastus pethiyagodai and the dragonfly Macromidia donaldi pethiyagodai. In 2020, a team of scientists led by S. D. Biju named a new genus of South and Southeast Asian tree frogs Rohanixalus in Pethiyagoda's honour.