2017 Expedition to Southern Colombia

Overview

The rivers of Colombia are a treasure trove of potential ichthyological research and discovery, yet field work in this beautiful and biodiverse country has long been very dangerous even for local biologists because various armed groups occupied much of the countryside and prohibited outsiders. Fortunately, one of the main rabel groups signed a peace agreement in 2016 and agreed to give up their arms, thus opening vast portion of Colombia once again to scientific study. Shortly after this, I began planning fieldwork in collaboration with Colombian ichthyologists Armando Ortega-Lara, who works for the INCIVA institute in Cali, and Francisco Villa, who is a professor at the University of Tolima in Ibague. In late July and early August 2017, I joined Armando, two of Francisco Villa's students (Cristhian Conde and Gian Carlo Sánchez), and Peruvian ichthyologist Vanessa Meza on an expedition to survey rivers draining various parts of the Andes Mountains in southern Colombia. We began our trip in Cali, which is in the Cauca River watershed (major tributary of the Magdalena River) then traveled NW to Buenaventura on the Pacific Coast. Along the Pacific Coast of Colombia, we sampled the Calima River (San Juan River watershed), the Dagua River, and the Patia River. From the Pacific Coast, we traveled to Popayán in the upper Magdalena, then over 3,000 m asl passes in the Eastern Cordillera before descending into headwaters of the Caqueta River, a major tributary of the northwestern Amazon basin. Among many incredible highlights of this trip was the opportunity to collect at the type localities for almost a dozen different fish species that had been described more than a century ago. Fresh tissues, specimens, and live photographs of such species from their type locality can be incredibly valuable for taxonomic revisions and are often essential when trying to identify or describe a related species even from many thousands of miles away. Most important for my research was the collection of fresh tissues, specimens and live photographs of eight species Chaetostoma (Ch. anale, Ch. breve, Ch. leucomelas, Ch. milesi, Ch. palmeriCh. patiae, Ch. platyrhynchus and Ch. thomsoni), and two species of Cordylancistrus, one of which appears to be undescribed (Co. daguae, Co. n.sp. Dagua). Overall, the trip was a tremendous success, and I look forward conducting more fieldwork with my Colombian colleagues in the future!

Work

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1. Our first sample site in the rio Melendez, a tributary of the Cauca that flows through Cali. 2. Photographing a Sturisomatichtys from the lower Calima River. 3. Armando and Cristhian drag a seine in the lower Calima River. 4. Vanessa and Cristhian attract some local attention as they collect tissues. 5. The three back seat amigos: Cristhian, Vanessa, and Gian Carlo. 6. Some of the local wildlife taking an interest in my fish photography. 7. Armando sorts through specimens. 8. Taking notes at the rio Mediacanoa. 9. Finishing up a site in the upper rio Calima. 10. Sampling the rio Mazamorras. 11. Celebrating the collection of a large Chaetostoma from the rio Mazamorras. 12. Showing some of the locals what fishes we were collecting. 13. A blackwater stream flowing through paramo at over 2,500 m asl in the Eastern Cordillera. 14. A breakfast of Chaetostoma soup in Florencia. 15. The Chaetostoma don't have a lot of meat, but what meat they have is quite tasty. 16. A Callophysis macropterus from the rio Orteguaza. 17. A large electric eel that stunned by our electrofisher. 18. Sorting, tissuing and photographing fishes along the banks of the Orteguaza. 19. Sunset on the Orteguaza. 20. Night seining. 21. A quick field sort of specimens to determine which would be tissued. 22. About to cross a very narrow and decrepit suspension bridge across the Orteguaza. 23. Reviewing fish photos. 24. A tree frog encountered in the rio Pepino. 25. The Caqueta River upstream of Puerto Limón. 26. Group photo in the Caqueta. 27. Cris and Vanessa tissue specimens. 28. Collecting large Chaetostoma in torrential habitats of the Andean piedmont. 29. Vanessa measures water temperature in the rio Pepino. 30. Celebrating a large Chaetostoma breve in the upper rio Pepino. 31. Some fishes collected from the rio Pepino. 

Fishes

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1. Atherinella colombiensis2. Abramites hypselonotus3. Leporinus striatus4. Aphyocharax avary5. Astyanax sp., 6. Othonocheirodus sp., 7. Creagrutus amoenus, 8. Cynopotamus bipunctatus9. Genycharax tarpon10. Hemigrammus newboldi11. Moenkhausia oligolepis, 12. Characidium n.sp. Mediacanoa, 13. Characidium cf. chupa, 14. Characidium purpuratum, 15. Characidium phoxocephalum, 16. Characidium sp., 17. Ctenolucius beani18. Lebiasina elongata19. Parodon buckleyi20. Parodon caliensis, 21. Saccodon dariensis22. Andinoacara sp., 23. Apistogramma alacrina24. Apteronotus bonaparti25. Parapteronotus hasemani26. Gymnorhamphichthys rondoni27. Agonostomus monticola28. Bunocephalus knerii29. Cetopsis montana30. composite image of all Chaetostoma species collected on this trip including (top left to bottom right): Ch. anale, Ch. breve, Ch. breve, Ch. milesi, Ch. platyrhynchus, Ch. platyrhynchus, Ch. palmeri, Ch. thomsoni, Ch. leucomelas, Ch. patiae, Ch. patiae. Scale bar for all photos = 1 cm.

Sponsors

This fieldwork was funded by the Coypu Foundation.

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