With an undescribed Baryancistrus species in the upper Tapajós River drainage, southern Para State, central Brazil (photo: M. Sabaj Pérez).
I am a taxonomist, ecologist and evolutionary biologist interested in historical diversifications and contemporary interactions among fish primary consumers – i.e., herbivores and detritivores. Herbivorous and detritivorous fishes exhibit many specialized adaptations for the consumption of attached algae and detritus, and require innovative field and laboratory techniques to understand their species richness, ecology and evolution. Fishes that eat algae and detritus are important because of their high diversity, their foundational role in aquatic food webs and their significant contributions to many food fisheries. The goals of my research are to understand rules governing their community assembly, pathways by which they affect ecosystem function, and historical factors that influenced their evolutionary diversification. Much of my research has focused on the suckermouth armored catfishes, also known as ‘plecos’ (family Loricariidae), which are species rich (>950 spp.), ubiquitous across tropical South American rivers, and can be easily distinguished from all other fishes by having a ventral oral disk and bodies covered with bony plates and external teeth called odontodes. Plecos are very popular in the aquarium fish hobby, where they are valued as algae-eaters and where some rare and colorful species sell for hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Peckoltia pankimpuju (Lujan & Chamon 2008)
Pongo de Manseriche, Marañon River, Peru
Nathan K. Lujan, PhD
Gerstner Scholar, American Museum of Natural History
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West and 79th St.
New York, NY 10024