Published: March 6, 2015

Fishes goes to Guatemala - Follow us in the field!

Caleb McMahan, Head of Zoological Collections; Collections Manager, Fishes, Gantz Family Collections Center


Next week our staff in Fishes at The Field Museum will be leaving the cold, snowy days of Chicago to study neotropical fishes in the Central American country of Guatemala!  The Field Museum has always been an important institution for studying the biodiversity of fishes in the tropical rainforests of Mexico, Central America, and South America.  On this expedition our Fishes staff will continue to build on our fish collections from the region so that we can answer even more questions.  When able to do so they will be blogging from their fieldwork in Guatemala, so that you can keep up with their trip - find out what they discovering, where they are exploring, and what they are learning.  Stay tuned for updates!

Many thanks to The Field Museum and National Science Foundation for making this expedition possible!


Guatemala is ranked as one of the top five biodiversity hotspots on the planet.  There are diverse habitats ranging from lowland rainforest, cloud forests, conifer forests, and mangroves - to various aquatic habitats both in rivers and along the coast in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.  Over 200 species of fishes can be found in different parts of the rivers, lakes, and streams of Guatemala.  These fishes include species from diverse groups such as the cichlids, tetras, guppies and killifish, and catfish.  New species continue to be discovered, and we are still learning a great deal about the distribution, behavior, and life history of fishes in this region.

The Collection of Fishes at The Field Museum has specimens from Guatemala collected from as long ago as 1905 - to as recently as 1999.  One goal of our expedition is to study the fishes in parts of the country that we do not have specimens from.  Many areas have not been visited in many years and scientists have lots of questions about the fishes that live there.  Another goal is to re-visit localities that we do have specimens from.  For some rivers and streams in Guatemala, the last specimens we have are from the early 1900s - imagine what may have changed in over 100 years!

Many of our efforts in the museum are collaborative, and this expedition is no different.  We are incredibly excited to be working with ichthyologists from Southeastern Louisiana University and students from the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala.  Scroll down to meet our team while we finish packing our gear and checking our maps before heading off next week!