Category: Blog


Published: March 13, 2015

Fishes in Guatemala: Las Verapaces

Caleb McMahan, Collections Manager, Fishes, Gantz Family Collections Center

After a couple of days filled with sorting out logistics, and driving away from Guatemala City, we have sampled at our first localities (Las Verapaces - Baja Verapaz and Alta Verapaz Departments). Our localities so far have centered around the Rio Escondido and Rio Cahabon, both north of Guatemala City. We found livebearing fishes of the family Poeciliidae (e.g. Pseudoxiphophorous spp., Poecilia mexicana), as well as cichlids, tetras, and catfish.

We drove for around four hours from Guatemala City to reach the Rio Escondido. We arrived as the sun was setting, and after checking in with staff at a lodge on the river, we gathered our head lamps, seines, and cast nets, and set out to see what we could find at night. We found a few interesting species. Liverbearing fishes of the genus Pseudoxiphophorus were quite common. Another interesting species was Profundulus labialis—a killifish that lives throughout this and other river systems n Guatemala. Susan caught the largest killifish of the trip so far!

After an evening at Rio Escondido, we set off this morning for the town of Coban. Along the way we stopped at an Ecological Reserve that is known for being a great place to observe the Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno). This brief stop did not disappoint - Kevin spotted an immature male quetzal feeding among trees. Several other birds were found, as well. 

We continued to Cóban and after meeting with administrators over the protected areas there, we set out for Sachichaj. The Rio Cahabón harbors several interesting species, and the upper tributaries of this river flow trough Sachichaj. 

After a day of searching, we collected the species we were looking for, and also got a good idea of some of the general diversity for this region. Tomorrow we head out for the Petén region, North of Guatemala. Stay tuned for more updates soon!

Caleb McMahan
Collections Manager, Fishes

Caleb is an integrative tropical biologist interested in the evolution, ecology, and distributions of fishes. While most of his work centers around the systematics, taxonomy, and historical biogeography of fishes, he collaborates with scientists active in areas of study such as paleontology, physiology, genomics, environmental science, and behavior. These interdisciplinary approaches offer the most toward enhancing our understanding of biodiversity. He works primarily with Neotropical freshwater fishes of Mexico, Central and South America.

For more information on Caleb's research program and joining the lab, visit Caleb's research website.

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