2011 Survey of Piedmont Rivers of the Bolivian Andes

Overview

To complement my surveys of Andean piedmont rivers of Peru in 2006 and 2010, I organized and led a survey of piedmont rivers in Bolivia in 2011 in collaboration with biologist Kathia Rivero from the Museo de Historia Natural Noel Kempff Mercado. The Bolivian piedmont is notable for its absence of many fish taxa that are characteristic of the Peruvian piedmont, including the loricariid catfish genus Chaetostoma, the tetra genus Creagrutus, and the cichlid genus Bujurquina. However, other typical montane taxa like the catfish genera Astroblepus and Trichomycterus, are common in the Andes of both Bolivia and Peru, and some lowland taxa like the catfish genus Ancistrus have invaded the piedmont of Bolivia. Biogeography of this region is poorly understood, motivating this trip to collect specimens and tissues to compare with material I had previously collected in Peru.

        I was joined on this expedition by Peruvian fish biologist Rosemary Argomedo, Bolivian fish biologists Roberto Blanco and Zulema Chavez, and my long-time friend Bill Wilson. Together, we circumnavigated a range of the Andes between Santa Cruz de la Sierra and Cochabamba, driving first along the north flank and then along the south flank, sampling rivers as we crossed them. The Ancistrus and Astroblepus tissues we collected from a wide range of elevations are now being used in a study of elevational specialization in the vision protein rhodopsin, in collaboration with Dr. Belinda Chang and PhD student Gianni Castiglione at the University of Toronto. Voucher specimens and tissues from this expedition are now cataloged at the Museo Noel Kempff (MNKP) and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). To read a blog about this expedition written for the Eddie Bauer company, click here and here. Scientific publications that have benefitted from specimen collections and observations made during this field work include the following:

Work

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1. The Museo Noel Kempff's fish collection. 2. Organizing field gear. 3. Loading the trucks. 4. A group photo before we depart Santa Cruz. 5. Our first site on the Río Grande near Santa Cruz. 6. The landscape near Santa Cruz. 7. Rosemary and Zulema prepare to seine. 8. Rosemary and Roberto assist with fish photos. 9. Zulema takes notes under observation of an aspiring scientist. 10. Collecting along the road to Cochabamba. 11. Electrofishing in a piedmont river. 12. Bill and Rosemary help plot a course. 13. Preparing to fish. 14. The Fuerte de Samaipata, an Incan archaeological site near Santa Cruz. 15. Tissueing specimens at our last site of the trip. 16. Rinsing formalin from specimens. 17. Sorting and identifying specimens. 18. Wrapping specimens for export.

Fishes

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1. Ctenobrycon sp., 2. Piabucus melanostoma3. Prodontocharax cf. melanotus4. Female Serrapinus sp., 5. Characidium cf. zebra, 6. Characidium sp., 7. Cichlasoma boliviense8. Ancistrus cf. bolivianus9. Hoplosternum littorale10. Otocinclus vestitus.

Sponsors

This fieldwork was sponsored by the Explorer's Club of New York and Eddie Bauer Inc.