Poster Presentation at SICB 2013 in San Francisco

On January 5th, 2013 I will be presenting a poster at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) 2012 annual convention in San Francisco, California. The poster is on my research on mouthbrooding in cichlids from Lake Tanganyika.

Aulonocranus dewindti, a mouthbrooding Tanganyikan cichlid

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New Article on Archocentrus spinosissimus!

I’ve just written a new article on Archocentrus spinosissimus for the online magazine Central Scene. The article is part of an issue focused on fish of the genus Archocentrus. The main points of the article is to cover the husbandry, taxonomic history, and neat behaviors of this rare fish. Check it out, it’s free to download the magazine!

Archocentrus spinosissimus article can be seen in the 3rd issue of Central Scene. Click the link below and click on the third issue to view the article. Enjoy!

Central Scene and Article

Archocentrus spinosissimus female guarding fry.

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Poster Presentation at CSUS NSM Undergraduate Research Conference- October 2nd @ 5pm

I will be presenting a poster at the California State University, Sacramento Natural Science and Mathematics Undergraduate Research Reception this Tuesday October 2, 2012. The event starts at 5 pm in the Union’s Redwood Room . Check my research as well as some of the cool research other people in our lab are doing on tropical fish.

Enantiopus sp. “kilesa”– a mouthbrooding Lake Tanganyika species

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Field Work At the Salton Sea, California- A Truly Bizarre Place

Unfortunately, I’ve been super busy with research and haven’t been able to keep up with the blog as much as I’d like to. About a month ago, I was a field assistant on a trip to the Salton Sea for Shannon Waters (a graduate student in the same lab I’m in at Sacramento State) project investigating the affects on fecundity in the invasive Tilapia, an Oreochromis species in the Salton Sea (most likely a hybrid of a few Oreochromis species). Besides Shannon and I, Esther Tracy, a lab member and Dr. Ron Coleman, lab supervisor also went on the trip. The goal was to collect some Tilapia females for Shannon’s study. Unfortunately, we only collected small fish, not adults.

Where Is The Salton Sea?

The Salton Sea is located in South East California’s Imperial Valley in the middle of the Colorado Dessert. It is about 40 minutes North of Mexicali, Mexico.It is a large body of water about 35 miles long by 15 miles wide.

Google Map of the area. A points to the Salton Sea.

The area is also on the San Andreas fault, creating very cool mud Volcanoes in the area.

Mud Volcano

It looks like this little mud volcano blew! All that was left was a crater

This mud volcano was very active and was bubbling with hot sulfurous mud.

Shannon Waters walking through the mud volcano field. There is an oddly placed factory in the distance.

Esther Tracy on top of a Mud Volcano

Me, mud volcano King!

Salton Sea History

The Salton Sea was created when a salt flat was flooded by the Colorado River. Throughout it’s history the area has been dry or wet due to floods by the Colorado River. The flooding was great as it created fertile farm land.

An old dock at the Salton Sea

Starting in the 1920’s the area started to gain tourist attraction. Fish were introduced to the body of water to draw in more tourists. In the 1950’s and 1960’s houses were built by the Salton Sea as it was supposed to be the next tourist mecca and be the happening place.

Bombay Beach was supposedly the place to be in the 1950’s

However, as the Salton Sea was a flooded salt bed in the middle of the dessert and didn’t have regular access to freshwater, the sea gradually became saltier through the years due to evaporation. This created quite a lot of fish kills and algae blooms, giving the area quite a distinct yet unpleasant aroma. Fish and Game tried various introductions of marine fish to hopefully inhabit the sea as salinity rose and still build a fishery, but introductions were for the most part unsuccessful. By the mid 1970’s the area was done for as a tourist destination. The area is no primarily run down and many little settlements set up for tourism in the 1950’s-1960’s are ghost towns. It is a very eerie place to drive through, but one that has a lot of a strange Americana feeling to it.

This little store was probably doing quite well back in the 1950’s

The area has a strange “Hills Have Eyes” feel to it.

Believe it or not, this building used to be a dry ice factory in the 1950’s.

Real Estate in the area is quite cheap!

Currently, there are only four fish living in the Salton Sea. The only native species to the region is the critically endangered Desert Pupfish, Cyprinodon macularius. Pupfish are amazing fish capable of living in some of the harshest environment. The other species are all invasive and include the freshwater to brackishwater Tilapia Oreochromis, native to Africa, the mosquitofish Gambusia affinis, and the sailfin molly, Poecilia latipina. The last two are native to the gulf coast of the United States and inhabit freshwater to full strength saltwater environments. All these fish were introduced to the Salton Sea by Fish and Game. What is amazing is at present, the Salton Sea is a bout one and a half times saltier than the ocean! The fish not only thrive in this salinity, they also thrive in the high water temperatures the Salton Sea has due to being in the dessert. When we were the air temperature was a blistering 114 degrees! As stated above, due to the harsh conditions of the environment, fish kills are quite a common sight in the Salton Sea.

The victims of one of the fish kills. These are all Tilapia.

There are a ton of barnacles in the Salton Sea and the beaches are essentially composed of fish bones and these very sharp barnacle shells. To say the least, my idea to wear flip flops was not a good one.

A male Oreochromis. These Tilapia get quite large, around 18-20 inches and 5lbs or more! This one was a victim of a fish kill. Males are jet black with bright red fins.

Female Oreochromis.

The skull of a tilapia, Oreochromis sp.

The Area is quite dry and California is in a drought, meaning the water can only evaporate in the Salton Sea, causing higher Salinity. Here you can see a dust devil off in the distance.


Apparently, a few years ago the water of the Salton Sea was right next to these trees. With evaporation, the water level has dropped and the Salton Sea has become much saltier. I’ve been told these trees are commonly photographed by tourists in the area, when in Rome!

Why Do Research on Invasive Fish in a Body of Water That’s Doomed?

So why do we research the Invasive Tilapia? It’s all about the birds! With a good portion of the natural wetlands of California destroyed due to human development, the Salton Sea has become a major part of the Pacific Flyway for many migratory bird species. The birds rest here on there migrations and occasionally breed. The fish, specifically Tilpia provide an excellent food source for the migratory birds. But, with rising salinity due to evaporation and no incoming freshwater, we don’t know how much longer the Tilapia can continue to breed and survive as a food source for the birds. Essentially, it’s save the invasive Tilapia to save the migratory birds (some of which are endangered species), while doing very little for the one native fish species, the pupfish! There have been talks of intentionally flooding the region with freshwater to lower the salinity to create a better habitat for the Tilapia and to hopefully keep a healthy bird population fed on their migrations. here are a few photos of the bird diversity.

Black and White Pellicans are a common sight at the Salton Sea, commonly diving for fish.


A bunch of birds taking off. There are a few gulls, pippers, egrets and cranes!

All in all, the Salton sea is a bizarre place that has some major environmental issues that need to be addressed.

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New Tylomelania!

A little over a month ago I placed an order with Tim Bell in Houston, Texas to order some more Tylomelania snails. I got 5 species, four of which I never kept before and one that I wanted to get to make a current colony larger. The snails came in fantastic shape. Here is what I got:

Tylomelania sp. “dwarf neon yellow” is a colorful and small species from Lake Poso. This species tops out at around 1″ in length.

Tylomelania gemmifera “Yellow Spot/Yellow Antenna Tylomelania”

Tylomelania perfecta is a rather drab brown color and is called the “Chocolate Rabbit Snail”. This species is riverine from the area around Lake Poso. This species is easy to ID as the wild caught snails have lots of wear on their shells due to the fast flowing water and corrosive substrate they live on. Interestingly, captive bred specimens lack this characteristic.

Tylomelania sp. “poso yellow” commonly called the “Poso Yellow Elephant Snail”

Tylomelania sp. “white spot”. I haven’t been able to ID what species this is exactly, so if anyone has an idea, please let me know. I believe it is either Tylomelania patriarchilis, Tylomelania towutica, or Tylomelania towutensis.

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ACA 2012- Indianapolis

This post comes a little late. As many of you know, the American Cichlid Association had their annual conference a few weeks ago in Indianapolis. Luckily, I was able to attend as a speaker. The conference was tons of fun and it was great to see people I’ve not seen in quite some time and meet new people.

The conference had one of the best speaker lineups I can remember (and I’m not just saying that because I was one of them!). Anton caught us up on the Jewel Cichlids of the genus Hemichromis and how soon it will be broken up into two genera. Paul Loiselle discussed the fishes of Madagascar. Heiko Bleher talked about his adventures. Ad Konings talked about new taxonomy from Lake Malawi and the conservation of the lake. Heinz Buscher had an amazing talks on just about everything from Lake Tanganyika with some of the most amazing aquatic video I’ve ever seen. And I talked about everyone’s favorite fish and their relatives Convict Cichlids!

Me with my fellow speakers after the speaker lunch

There were a few very nice display tanks running at the hotel. the two that stand out the most are a Lake Tanganyika display and a Madagascan display. Here are some photos from both:

Aulonocranus dewendti is a cool Featherfin Cichlid from Lake Tanganyika

Callochromis melanostigma male

Apparently this Neolamprologus tretocephalus didn’t find the convention as exciting as I did

Paretroplus kieneri is the smallest Paretroplus species from Madagascar and quite oddly colored

Paratilapia sp. from Madagascar

Although the show was unusualy small there were quite some nice fish entered.

Altolamprologus compressiceps

Petrochromis sp. “kasumbe”

Gnathochromis permaxillaris

Astatotilapia burtoni

Astatotilapia calliptera

Aulonocara jacobfreibergi “Otter Point”

Aulonocara stuartgranti “Mdoka”

Lethrinops sp. “red cap”

Steatocranus cassuarius

Hemichromis sp. “neon” may in fact be a line bred Hemichromis guttatus according to Anton Lamboj

Astatotilapia sp. “44”

Paretroplis menerambo

Archocentrus centrarchus

‘Cichlasoma’ bocourti

‘Cichlasoma’ beani

Herichthys tamasopoensis

Herichthys sp. “turqoise”

Neetroplus nematopus

Parachromis managuensis

Parachromis loisellei

Parachromis motaguensis

Paraneetroplus gibbiceps

Paratheraps hartwegi

Petenia splendida

Rocio octofasciata

Theraps nourisatti

Vieja argentea

This Caquetaia kraussi won best of show

‘Cichlasoma’ festae

Geophagus altifrons “Rio Tocantins”

The true ‘Geophagus’ pelligrini! A very rare fish

Heros notatus

Hoplarchus psittacus

Astronotus ocellatus

Retroculus lapidifer

Symphysodon aequifasciata

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Speaking at the American Cichlid Association Convention

I’ll be speaking at the American Cichlid Association in Indianapolis, Indiana at 12:00 am Friday. The talk is “All About Archocentrus” and covers the Convict Cichlids and their relatives. Come on out. Should be tons of fun……and there is a lot of beer!

ACA 2012

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