What the Fish? Episode 6: Tales from the Field

2.5 million specimens don't collect themselves!

The Field Museum's Division of Fishes houses approximately 2.5 million specimens of fish, including whole specimens in alcohol, skeletal specimens, tissue samples, and cleared and stained material. That is a lot of fishes! But the fishes did not just arrive overnight; scientists and researchers have been adding to the collection at The Field Museum since 1894. Museum collections serve as records of the natural world, as well as critical resources for scientists wanting to study the biodiversity of the planet. The fishes collection has grown through continued fieldwork by ichthyologists that use a vast array of tools and strategies for sampling living and extinct fishes from around the world. Tune into our podcast this week with a special paleoichthyological guest, Sarah Gibson of the University of Kansas. Listen to us as we discuss the many different ways we collect fishes in the field. Also, below are photos from some of our field adventures. Follow this link to check out our gallery of fieldwork images, or click on each photo below to see some of the complete photo galleries for these field expeditions. 

Deep-sea trawling off coast of San Diego, California

Collecting freshwater and marine fishes in Madagascar

Collecting freshwater and marine fishes in Panama

Collecting marine fishes in Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana

Collecting fossil fishes in Lisbon Valley, Utah

Fish of the Week: Araripelepidotus temnurus

Family: Semionotidae

Distribution: Santana Formation (Brazil) from the Late Cretaceous (approximately 92 million years ago) 

Size: 120 cm

Fun Fact: Dr. Leo Smith thinks this species looks like the goldfish of the Triassic!

Araripelepidotes is a member of an extinct group of fishes, the Semionotiformes, which possessed armor-like ganoin scales that protected their bodies from predators. Among living fishes, only gars have ganoid scales, and they are close evolutionary relatives of semionotiform fishes. The genus Araripelepidotes is unique among semionotiforms because of its unusual teeth and jaws. While other semionotiform species have toothed jaws that are hypothesized to be associated with predatory diets, Araripelepidotes had a toothless jaw below its skull that was potentially used for suction feeding, like a modern carp. Paleontologists make inferences about the diet of Araripelepidotes by combining their understanding of the feeding morphology of these jaws and by observing an abundance of shrimp-like ostracods in the rock beds surrounding the fossil fish.


You can download or subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, follow us on Twitter, and tweet us your fishy questions @FM_WhatTheFish, or email us at whatthefish@fieldmuseum.org.

So long, and thanks for all the fish!

Fish Nerds Podcast Team:

Beth Sanzenbacher

Sarah Gibson (special guest, Geology graduate student, University of Kansas)

Leo Smith

Matthew P. Davis


Science Focus: 
Amphibians & Reptiles