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Seeking The Peacock Bass – Petcha

A monumental 398-page report by Sven Kullander of the Swedish Museum in Stockholm and Efrem Ferreira of the Aquatic Center of Biological Fisheries in Manaus took up your entire December 2006 concern of Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters (17:four). Their article, “A review of the South American cichlid genus Cichla, with descriptions of nine new species (Teleostei: Cichlidae),” is crucial paper on American cichlids in many years. Kullander and Ferreira raised the variety of peacock bass (Cichla) to 15, utilizing detailed analyses primarily based on morphometric, meristic and distributional information, and laptop-assisted phylogenetic instruments to graphically assemble the smallest self-perpetuating populations, referred to as tokogenetic teams (Nexus Data Editor, PAUP, MrEnt). 



And it’s not the final phrase. Kullander’s and Ferreira’s goal was to gather from all identified populations from all through the Amazon and adjoining basins to find out which names ought to be used for the distinct populations on the premise of physique half variations; these variations inform us what’s new (or previous) and distinctive, what’s shared and the way far again the variation might be traced. Groups that share some variation on a theme should have frequent ancestry. This phylogenetic evaluation allowed the authors to assemble distinct and discrete self-perpetuating teams, however they acknowledge this can be a place to begin for additional investigations utilizing, for instance, nuclear or mitochondrial DNA analyses.


Peacock bass
Peacock bass. Photo by Ianare/Wikipedia

It’s the first step in an extended sequence of investigations. But now we’ve acquired the groundwork, and if previous investigations of different teams are an indicator of what’s to return, we’ll in all probability see most of those species names validated, extra detected or found, and we’ll be capable to refine the historical past of Cichla. Kullander and Ferreira decided species teams throughout the genus and the way the species are associated — an excellent place to start out.

Details of the Study

Many of us are accustomed to the names Cichla ocellaris and C. temensis, and have seen different names through the years. But this paper demonstrates that markings are extra variable and complicated than something beforehand revealed (markings typically fluctuate tremendously inside a single species, typically between the higher-river fish and decrease-river fish, and typically even inside a single location in a river). The authors constructed a information to the diagnostic markings and different traits for Cichla species from completely different drainages, however they warn that you have to measure and think about every part; just some different components to take a look at, for instance, could be marks on the higher gill cowl and the caudal fin form. The mixtures of traits are dependable indicators — not the existence of 1 or two options. 

Want to Learn More?

 Cichlids of the Americas – The Peacock Basses

New Cichlids 


They studied greater than 362 people, counting and measuring scale counts above and beneath the lateral line, dorsal spines and mushy rays, anal rays, pectoral rays, variety of vertebrae, gill rakers on the primary gill arch, caudal peduncle size and depth, interorbital width (distance between the eyes), head and snout size and depth, physique depth and dorsal backbone size. They additionally thought-about markings (partially from images), corresponding to ocellar (white-ringed black) marks on the physique, vertical bars, a lateral band or lateral blotches, caudal and stomach blotches, rows of sunshine spots on the aspect, postorbital (behind the attention) marks, existence of an occipital bar (a mark from the gill cowl over the nape of the neck), and the way these occurred or not in numerous populations. They additionally studied specimens from 15 main museums all through North and South America and Europe. 

They decided that 15 distinct species could possibly be recognized now (together with the brand new ones), and doubtless 20 or 30 further species shall be acknowledged when extra collections and information fill the gaps. Some species are widespread, and others are restricted to at least one or few rivers. One species, Cichla mirianae, is confined to higher tributaries of the Rio Tapajos, the place I’d been years in the past. At the time, I couldn’t resolve which Cichla species I had. Now that it has been decided that just one happens within the higher Tapajos, there’s no query that I had Cichla mirianae

The Habitat and our Fishing Camp

Several giant rivers drain tropical South America. The Amazon is the deepest and largest river on the planet. It is surrounded by the Tocantins to the east, the Parana to the west and the Orinoco and Piraiba and smaller basins to the north. The Amazon’s 11 main tributaries are the Negro (together with the Rio Branco), Xingu, Madeira, Tapajos, Solimoes, Ica-Putumayo, Jupara, Jurua, Maranon, Purus and the Ucayali. The Solimoes joins the Negro at Manaus to type the primary stem of the Amazon. The Negro is crucial tributary from the north, and has a seasonal connection to the Orinoco — an in any other case separate basin. The bigger rivers from the south embrace the Xingu, house to spectacular loricariid catfishes, and the Tapajos instantly west. 

The Rio Sao Benedito is way upstream (south), situated on the southern rim of the Amazon basin. It is considered one of a number of parallel small rivers that originates within the southern highlands on the rim of the Amazon rain forest melancholy. The stays of those forested highlands are being cleared and burned for cattle farming, although the federal government is making an attempt to cease it.

We had a fishing camp on the Sao Benedito, about as far up the Rio Tapajos basin as you will get. The Sao Benedito is slender and black like St. John’s River in Florida, and its edges are lined with white and purple water hyacinths, numerous reeds and water-tolerant bushes. At the camp, the river drops about 10 toes in 1,000 (a 1-p.c grade) as rapids separate the higher from the decrease river. During the wet season, the rapids are submerged, and there’s no barrier to migration.

Carlos Munhos Arroyo is the proprietor of the Posada Salto Thaimacu, a fishing camp situated simply above the rapids. From the camp, we may take a motorized boat upstream or downstream on the Rio Sao Benedito to fish the primary stem of the river or the myriad backwaters and tributaries that lurked underneath the forest cowl. 

As is typical of many higher tributaries on slopes, the Sao Benedito flows swiftly, carrying logs and dislodged hyacinth mats. Black at midstream, it’s fed by black seepage and clear (whitewater) streams. Every habitat is completely different by way of water shade, depth, temperature, shade, backside and surrounding vegetation, sunken logs and different particles, sand or silt or mud on the underside. The habitats additionally diversified relying on whether or not we have been on or above the rapids or in a backwater or tributary.

Fishing with knifefish as dwell bait (after which minimize-up piranha after we ran out of knifefish), we caught dozens of peacock bass and piranhas (which can take any bait, together with minimize-up piranha). At the time, I couldn’t establish the species of Cichla however assumed I had at the very least two sorts. Carlos instructed me they caught three sorts on this river, however adjoining rivers had extra.

According to Kullander and Ferreira, the one Cichla within the higher Rio Tapajos system (which incorporates the Rio Sao Benedito) is Cichla mirianae, and we have been catching shade types of solely this fish. Based on what we noticed or caught within the river, it in all probability eats Apistogramma, Leporinus like cyprinids, penguin and different tetras, cory and loricariid catfish, some piranhas, tree frogs and tadpoles, knifefish, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, grasshoppers and small birds.

Their giant mouths can in all probability engulf absolutely anything. The solely greater fish within the river are enormous catfish, and the one predators on each are fish-consuming birds and caiman, which in all probability want turtles. We caught few Cichla mid-river and caught extra in quiet backwaters. When hooked, they’d surge underneath the hyacinth mats from which we needed to coax them out slowly (all have been launched). 

Cichla mirianae is thought from the 2 higher tributaries forming the Rio Tapajos (the Rio Teles Pires and Rio Juruena) however not north (decrease) within the Rio Tapajos primary stem. It additionally was recorded from the close by higher tributaries of the Rio Xingu, suggesting that seasonal excessive water connections would possibly happen as they do with the Orinoco and Negro. The solely different Cichla from the Tapajos drainage is C. pinima, one other new species, from the decrease primary stem of the Tapajos and tributaries. This identical fish additionally happens within the Rio Curua-Una, the Rio Xingu, the Rio Tocantins, the Rio Capim and the Rio Amazonas (the Solimoes downstream of Manaus), once more suggesting seasonal excessive water connections.

Do some other Cichla happen within the Rio Sao Benedito? Kullander and Ferreira didn’t have specimens from this river, so it’s good to maintain an open thoughts. Meanwhile, all of the fish we caught have been presumably C. mirianae.

Yet More Cichla?

The aquarium passion is greater than 100 years previous, and in all that point, we thought we had at most two sorts of peacock bass. In the previous few years, the sportfishing group has confused the frequent names of those fish, and now use “peacock bass” to explain Florida oscars. Aquarists have additionally abused the names of peacock bass by not recording the rivers, streams and lakes during which our aquarium fish have been collected, and never recording markings and measurements in better depth. By the time Kullander and different ichthyologists are completed with this genus, there might be 50 species of Cichla. 


Zuccon, A., and 

D. Zuccon. 2006. MrEnt v 1.2. Department of Vertebrate Zoology 

& Molecular Systematics Laboratory, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm.

Several species of pacu and piranha are plentiful within the Rio Sao Benedito. Piranhas, corresponding to Serrasalmus notatus, are probably the most frequent catch right here.

The Cichla Species List

This is Kullander and Ferreira’s checklist of Cichla species to date (don’t neglect the 20 or 30 others but to be named).

Cichla ocellaris

C. orinocensis

C. nigromaculata

C. monoculus

C. kelberi

C. pleiozona

C. mirianae

C. melaniae

C. piquiti

C. thyrorus

C. jariina

C. pinima

C. vazzoleri

C. temensis

C. intermedia

A Glance at Cichla

What do the Cichla seem like? Kullander and Ferreira supplied images of all, and also you’ll discover many extra in aquarium literature, however hobbyists’ snapshots seldom authenticate the place these fish have been caught. Moreover, a number of species have been transplanted all through South America by fishery biologists “improving” native sport fisheries (this has gone on all through the world). Many passion images are of fish collected from completely different rivers (exporters put fish that look alike into the identical field). So, take any identification you see with a grain of salt, except you recognize its origin.

Here’s one other supply: Google “peacock bass,” and also you’ll see ads for sportfishing camps in South America providing journey packages for peacock bass, big catfish and piranhas, with hyperlinks to nature journeys for fowl watching, orchids and images. Many of the websites have images of what guests have caught, together with the native kinds of Cichla. You can e-mail the location to verify the image got here from that camp and was not equipped by the promoting company.  

Cichla lengthen all through the Amazon and adjoining rivers of tropical South America, and lots of locations haven’t but been studied. They’ve additionally been transplanted. By looking for fishing camps on completely different rivers, you’ll be able to arrange an expedition to a spot no person has seemed earlier than and never fear about having a bunch of aquarists or a journey company set it up for you. Although you can’t legally take away fish from Brazil, take your digital camera and a glass picture tank, and convey them again in residing shade in your laptop computer. You in all probability received’t know what fish you’ve caught if you are nonetheless within the discipline, however will save the colours and markings.

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