The primary goal of this expedition was to collect tissues and specimens from Amazonian and Essequibo sides of the Rupununi Savannah, which serves as a low-lying drainage divide between these watersheds during the dry season and is subject to sheet flooding that connects the two drainages during the wet season. My labmate Lesley de Souza needed whole specimens and tissues for genetic analysis for her dissertation, and I needed whole specimens and tissues for stable isotope analysis for my dissertation. Lesley and I were joined on this expedition by fellow ichthyologist Donald Taphorn, Guyanese biologists Elford Liverpool and Stacy Lord, and US fisheries technician Jonathan Hartsell.
To reach the Rupununi, our team followed an overland route to Lethem that was similar to the one we took in 2003, although we spent almost all of this trip sampling the Tacutu and Rupununi rivers and their tributaries. After returning to Georgetown, we did take one short trip by plane and boat to the Potaro River above Kaieteur Falls in order to look for specimens of the rare and endemic genera Lithogenes and Corymbophanes. Unfortunately, we were thwarted in our efforts by high water and a short timetable. The experience was valuable though, because it helped prepare me for future fieldwork in the upper Potaro and nearby rivers in 2011 and 2013. Specimens collected during this expedition are now cataloged at AUM under field number prefix GUY05, where they continue to benefit ichthyological research. Published papers that have already benefited from collections and observations made during this trip include the following:
Lujan, N.K., J. Armbruster, N. Lovejoy and H. López-Fernández. 2015. Multilocus molecular phylogeny of the Loricariidae (Pisces: Siluriformes) with a focus on subfamily Hypostominae. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 82A:269–288.
Souza, L.S. de, J.W. Armbruster and D.C. Wernecke. 2012. The influence of the Rupununi portal on distribution of freshwater fish in the Rupununi district, Guyana. Cybium 36:31-43.
1. The Rupununi Savannah with outliers of the Kanuku Mountains in the background. 2. Lesley examining a fresh Hoplias aimara. 3. Holding a red-footed tortoise that was crossing the road. 4. Collecting fish from a pond in the Rupununi Savannah. 5 and 6. Jonathan taking tissues in Yupukari with elementary school onlookers, and showing love for his first Pseudoplatystoma catfish. 7. A hylid treefrog that jumpped on our photo tank. 8. Playing with one of Diane McTurk's otters at Karanambo. 9. Don Taphorn giving a lecture to elementary school children in Yupukari. 10. An Amerindian fisherman with his day's catch. 11. Our team with an Amerindian family living near the Brazilian border. 12. An elementary school boy holding the loricariid catfish Squaliforma squalina. 13. Tissuing specimens. 14. Posing atop one of the many giant termite mounds in the Rupununi Savannah. 15. The road from Lethem to Linden as it passes through Iwokrama Rainforest Preserve. 16. The golden rocket frog (Anomaloglossus beebei), an aromobatid species endemic to the mist zone near the top of Kaeiteur Falls. 17. Posing before Kaieteur Falls.
1. Hoplias aimara. 2. Pseudancistrus nigrescens. 3. Pseudacanthicus leopardus. 4. Peckoltia braueri. 5. Acarichthys heckelii. 6. Geophagus sp. 7. The silver arowana, Osteoglossum bicirrhosum.
This fieldwork was sponsored by NSF grant DEB-0315963, the All Catfish Species Inventory.