200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 22: “Chasing Fish ”

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photos of ichthyologist Mark Sabaj Perez and John Lundberg
John Lundberg (left, with camera) and fellow ichthyologist Ramiro Royero examinea goliath catfish (Brachyplatystoma filamentosum) at a fish market in Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela. Mark Sabaj Pérez (right, with fish) celebrates the successful "hogging" of a black driftwood catfish (Trachycorystes sp.) after a 20-minute, hand-to-fin struggle in the Simoni River, Guyana.

Chasing Fish

South and Central America have the richest freshwater fish faunas on Earth, with more than 5,440 species documented to date. In February 2011, Academy ichthyologists Dr. John Lundberg and Dr. Mark Sabaj Pérez traveled to Manaus, Brazil to deliver lectures about their explorations of tropical Latin American rivers. They spoke to the 900-plus-member Brazilian Society of Ichthyology. John spoke about his field career, which has focused on documenting previously unseen fishes of the deep river channels of the Brazilian Amazon and Venezuelan Orinoco. Mark discussed how he has fished widely to document fish assemblages and discover new species in the rivers, lakes, and swamps of Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Guyana, and Suriname.

During the last two decades, unprecedented advances have helped ichthyologists document and understand the diversity and distributional patterns of tropical fishes. Recent fieldwork in unexplored waters and challenging habitats continues to uncover undescribed species and distinct new forms. Studies of newly collected and preserved specimens have improved the state of “Neotropical” ichthyology; fossils are helping researchers understand how fish originated and evolved; and new technologies are improving our understanding of fish evolution and habitat.

Are you interested in learning more about the work of Academy ichthyologists? Visit the Ichthyology Department website at ansp.org.

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