If you are studying in Biology, or if you care about the future of our planet, you probably have been told that the Neotropics are biodiversity hotspots, which are “biogeographic regions with significant reservoirs of biodiversity” according to Wikipedia. Furthermore, if you come from a temperate region like North America or Europe you probably have seen pictures of the tropical forests and all the incredible organisms that compose it. Seeing a picture is one thing, experiencing this huge diversity is another one.
Since I got to Panama, I had everyday the opportunity to discover more and more species, more and more concepts, and more and more issues related to the Neotropics. We specially had some lectures about plants by Dr. Lissy Colie and Dr. Tom Kusar among others, and lectures about birds by Dr. Christine Rhiel and Dr. Janeene Touchton. So, plants and birds, check. What about the other taxa?
I am particularly interested in freshwater fish, as my model organism is the Trinidadian guppy. Well, there will be no surprise here by saying that the diversity of freshwater fish in the Neotropics is higher than anywhere else in the world. Neotropical freshwater fish represent a bit more than 30% of the total species discovered today (4,035 species (705 genera) of around 13,000 species of freshwater fish, Lévêsque et al. 2008), and there’s apparently much more to be described. What’s great with freshwater fish is that they are confined to drainages, and they are great model systems for the study of speciation, adaptation, and a lot of other scientific words ending in –tion.
We had the chance a few days ago to wander in streams to catch water striders (insects from the Gerridea family) with Dr. Luis de Leon. While we were looking for these insects, I grab the opportunity to plunge my camera underwater to record some of the freshwater fish of Panama. I made a (very) short video about the 3 most abundant species that I saw and tried to identify them. If I made a mistake, don’t hesitate to notify it to me in the comments!
Lévêsque C, Oberdorff T, Paugy D, Stiassny MLJ, Tedesco PA (2008) Global diversity of fish (Pisces) in freshwater. Hydrobiologia, 595, 545–567.