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Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 212528182

Global status and conservation of Tucacas killifish: the rarest and most restricted fish in the coastal plains of Venezuela

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 212528182) - Tucacas killifish - Awarded $8,300 on January 20, 2022

The Tucacas killifish (Austrofundulus leohoignei): the rarest and most restricted fish in the coastal plains of Venezuela.

The Tucacas killifish was described for the Tocuyo and Aroa river lowlands in western coastal drainages of Venezuela. This annual fish is benthopelagic and lives in isolated rainwater pools (lentic and shallow environments with dense aquatic vegetation on the margins). These habitats are temporary ponds or marsh in gallery forests, ecotones in lowland plains created in the rainy season. These persist for a few months before drying out completely. These aquatic environments are very important, since they retain energy, nutrients and water that will be used by the ecosystem, its plants and faunas. Nevertheless, these habitats are not common and are being progressively destroyed in large areas by the expansion of the agricultural, mining and tourism frontier.

Apart of the very restricted distribution of cave fish species, the Tucacas killifish distribution is one of the smallest and most restricted geographically in all the continental drainages of Venezuela. It has only been collected from few sites, despite the fact that the plains have been sampled on several occasions. The distribution of Tucacas killifish may be underestimated due to the ephemeral condition of its habitat, which disappears in the dry season. For this reason, to cover this information gap it is necessary to apply sampling with adequate techniques and times.

This project is sponsored by the Regional Fish Collection of the Universidad Centroccidental Lisandro Alvarado (http://www.ucla.edu.ve/museopeces/) with the participation of researchers and students from the Unversidad Nacional Experimental de los Llanos Occidentales Ezequiel Zamora (UNELLEZ), Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela (UBV) and the Instituto Nacional de Parques (INPARQUES). The objectives proposed in this project are:

Objective 1. To conduct an assessment of habitat of Tucacas Killifish.  

Objective 2. Determine the global status of the distribution and populations of the species. 

Objective 3. Develop an awareness and education program to promote the monitoring and conservation of the species.

Selected references:

Hrbek, T., Thomerson, J. E., & Taphorn, D. C. (2005). Molecular phylogeny of Austrofundulus Myers (Cyprinodontiformes: Rivulidae), with revision of the genus and the description of four new species. Magnolia Press. 

Rodríguez-Olarte, D., Amaro, A., Coronel, J., & Taphorn B, D. C. (2006). Integrity of fluvial fish communities is subject to environmental gradients in mountain streams, Sierra de Aroa, north Caribbean coast, Venezuela. Neotropical Ichthyology, 4 (3), 319-328.

Rodríguez-Olarte, D., Taphorn, D. C., & Lobón-Cerviá, J. (2011). Do protected areas conserve neotropical freshwater fishes? A case study of a biogeographic province in Venezuela. Animal Biodiversity and Conservation, 34 (2), 273-285. 

Rodríguez-Olarte, D., Marrero, C. and Taphorn, D. C. The rivers to the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Venezuela. Chapter 4 (pp: 71-102). In: Rodríguez-Olarte, D. (Editor). Rivers at risk in Venezuela. Volume 2. Hydrobiological Resources Collection of Venezuela. Universidad Centroccidental Lisandro Alvarado.

Taphorn, D. C. and Rodríguez-Olarte, D., (2015) Tucacas annual fish, Austrofundulus leohoignei, In: J.P. Rodríguez, A. García-Rawlins and F. Rojas-Suárez (eds.) Red Book of Venezuelan Fauna. Fourth edition. Provita and Fundación Empresas Polar, Caracas.

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