Sirens of Liège

 Ichthyology, meetings, Not categorized, Travel  Kommentarer inaktiverade för Sirens of Liège
Jul 092012
 

This is the first day of silence after coming back to Stockholm from the XIV European Ichthyological Congress in Liège, Belgium (3-8July).

Aquarium and Museum Liège front

Entrance to the museum and aquarium in Liège, venue of the XIV European Congress of Ichthyology, July 2012

Whereas the meeting, attended by a round 260 delegates from all over Europe and occasional from farther away, was well organised and quite informative, heat hit us and noise. Coming from a cold Swedish summer, the rainiest June in 200 years, Liègian temperatures were an amiable mid-20s and only one shower wet us. But it took buying a few more T-shirts (from Swedish H&M) to feel comfortably neat around the clock. I loved the heat, actually. But the noise… Constructed as an intricate labyrinth of narrow streets between stone and brick buildings, sounds from everything sounding cascaded through the streets of Liège and there was no escape even in the hotel room. Most remarkable, however, were the frequent ambulances and police cars continuously racing in and out of streets and alleys, with a 2000 db (exaggerating, but well …) high pitch sirens resounding all over the municipality. Quite remarkable. Liègians seem to love noise more than anything else.

 

 

Photo of stuffed mermaid in Liège museum

Sirena anthroposelacia pilifera in the exhibit of the Aquarium in Liège

 

 

 

Fleeing the street sirens I had a brief encounter with a real one in the lower floor of the combined public aquarium and zoological museum (Liège Aquarium-Museum) , which was also the venue for the Congress. This little lady had a glass cage all for herself, in swimming pose, and is indeed the first real stuffed mermaid I have come close to in real life.

 

Fish exhibit of the zoological museum in Liège

A part of the systematically ordered exhibit at the zoological Museum in Liège

 

The rest of the aquarium is maybe mainly for the local audience. The Museum, however, two floors up, was neat and had a number of interesting objects, making it well worth a visit. Displaying real animals in systematic order it was ideal and should be a lead star for other natural history exhibits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of notebook with fish drawings

Pages in notebook by Francis de Castelnau in the exhibition of the Zoological Museum in Liège

One table display featured a charming set of castelnauiana that was news to me, including drawing equipment, notebooks, and sketches from the later days of Francis de Castelnau (1810-1880). Apparently Castelnau donated specimens to the museum along with the notebooks, and there is now a plan to repaint the stuffed fishes based on the drawings.

The Congress? Well, I probably sat more than the usual number of sessions. Belgium has a big advantage in having several institutions providing training and research opportunities in morphology and anatomy, making it an interesting breeding ground for evolutionary and functional analyses of fish physionomies and behaviour, and has also a very strong research in African freshwater fishes. This balanced very well a large number of more or less conclusive or inconclusive molecular presentations. I travelled with NRM FishBase staff Michael Norén and Bodil Kajrup who presented a talk on our ongoing hagfish research, and a poster of a mapping of Swedish fish type localities, respectively. I have been too occupied with other things recently, and did not feel like giving a talk. Some other time. Maybe on mermaids. This is not the last mermaid post. It didn’t turn out a meeting report, at least.

By the way: The European Ichthyological Congresses are organised locally (this one mainly by the University of Liège) but are actually a significant part of activities of the European Ichthyological Society. The first congress was organised in Sarajevo in 1972. I was one of the organisers of the Congress in Stockholm in 1985. Membership in the society is open for all, and there is a website (http://artedi.nrm.se/eis/) providing the details how to join.

 

All photos © Sven O Kullander, CC-NC-BY

Day 1, 2011

 Books, Cichlids, Danios, Fish, meetings  Kommentarer inaktiverade för Day 1, 2011
Jan 012011
 

As the snow whirls around and the cold fills up the atmosphere, the new year brings a welcome day off to be taken care of. Dough is rising and breakfast bread will be served in an hour or so. Family is sleeping, stoned by the unusual late hours to sit through the paradox of a year and decade shift without anything really happening. Only computers worldwide automatically shifting display date, steadfast from Australia westwards. It takes 24 hours to shift from one day to another, or does it?

The past autumn proved hectic to the limit of sustainability and blogging plummeted, so there is something to be caught up on.  Most of last year wasn’t in the plus column, however, so there is a lot to be expected from this one. The highlights of the past twelve months that come to mind spontaneously were:

The FishBase Symposium 2010 in Stockholm, October 18, featuring a fantastic series of talks by highly successful, competent and enthusiastic personality scientists covering all of what it takes to be a fish systematist, not least the field work and the need for specimens, not only tissue samples to do systematics, Melanie Stiassny, Maurice Kottelat, Tan Heok Hui, Richard Pyle, Jörg Freyhof, Anthony Gill, moderated by one more star, Ralf Britz. The audicence enjoyed the show tremendeously, and so did I. There is a report to download, most of it in Swedish, but there is always Google Translate.

Te Yu Liao’s PhD dissertation defence with Paul Skelton as opponent, 18 November. Te Yu has been with us at NRM since 2006 working on a revision of Rasbora and similar fishes. It has resulted in several phylogenetic studies, and several morepapers, altogether seven publications,  included in the dissertation (A phylogenetic analysis of the rasborins (Cyprinidae: Danioninae: Rasborini)) but still to be published. These papers provide a new framework for danionine systematics and are based on both morphology and molecules. Some of the papers are:

  • Fang, F., M. Norén, T.Y. Liao, M. Källersjö & S.O. Kullander. 2009. Molecular phylogenetic interrelationships of the South Asian cyprinid genera Danio, Devario and Microrasbora (Teleostei, Cyprinidae, Danioninae). Zoologica Scripta, 38: 237-256.
  • Liao, T.Y., S.O. Kullander & F. Fang. 2010. Phylogenetic analysis of the genus Rasbora (Teleostei: Cyprinidae). Zoologica Scripta, 39:155-176.
  • Pramod, P.K., F. Fang, K. Rema Devi, T.-Y. Liao, T.J. Indra, K.S. Jameela Beevi & S.O. Kullander. 2010. Betadevario ramachandrani, a new danionine genus and species from the Western Ghats of India (Teleostei: Cyprinidae: Danioninae). Zootaxa, 2519: 31-47.

Peter Cottle’s book about danios (Danios and Devarios) came out in December, and made a great holiday gift. The title of the foreword (which I wrote …) summarises the opus: Passion. I will get back to this book and others, but suspecting the edition may be somewhat limited, I would recommend you to get your copy now …

What is up now:

There will be more danionine papers, several already in press

A long series of cichlid papers are in an advanced state, both on African and South American cichlids

FishBase will organise three meetings this year: the annual FishBase Minisymposium with the FishBase Consortium, the annual Swedish FishBase symposium, and triannual Artedi Lectures

The first volume about fish in The Encyclopedia of the Swedish Flora and Fauna series will be published in May or so. This volume covers all species of chordates occurring in Sweden from cephalochordates to chondrichthyans, authored by me, Thomas Stach (tunicates) and Henning Blom (introductions to chordates and vertebrates). The illustrations, however, may be the major reason to look forward to this book. They are all new, and all the Swedish fishes are superbly illustrated from scratch by Linda Nyman and Karl Jilg (I haven’t seen the tunicate illustrations).

And I will go to Iceland. All my life I strived to go south, to warmth, but my former student, Georg Friðriksson, who is now an ichthyologist with the Náttúruminjasafn Íslands, has assured me that Iceland is not covered with ice and snow in the summer (or has he? May have to ask again). They have fantastic fish, all kinds of ecophenotypes of char, but also sticklebacks.

As you can see, 2011 looks all bright, new, and worth living.

Jun 092009
 

The IPFC8 over, and number 9 probably located to Japan in 2011, it is soon time to bid farewell to Australia. Not much of fishes have we seen, but the Sydney Aquarium was interesting and had many fishes on exhibit both salt and fresh. I got my first closeup of a dugong, the real mermaid.


Mermaid: Dugong in Sydney Aquarium.
Photo Sven O. Kullander. CC-BY-NC
The local mall also had a nice assortment and tonight we dined on Macquairia maccullochi (hope I get this right because it is not easy to spell or remember) which was excellent. All the fish and chips and the fishburger in Pemberton were delicious but I am not sure what species is involved.

Barramundi, fish market in Sydney. Photo Sven O. Kullander, CC-BY-NC

Saturday and Sunday I was invited by Heiko Bleher, famous in the aquarium world for travelling everywhere in the world in search of interesting freshwater fishes, to come along on a trip to photograph Lepidogalaxias salamandroides.

We had a nice journey from Fremantle south, guided by a map with likely localities already marked. Lepidogalaxias salamandroides is a very special fish. It is the only fish that can turn its head in different directions, just like humans can move the head relative to the neck. In the fish, this is accomplished by an extended distance between the anterior vertebrae, providing room for muscle movements otherwise impeded by the relatively stiff normal fish vertebral column. It is confined to, but not uncommon in a relatively narrow stretch of coastline in southwestern Western Australia, and more precisely to swamp regions that dry out in the summer, and carry water only in the winter. The fish aestivates buried in the ground, and comes out only when it rains. Generally in is the only species in the pools where it is found, along with some freshwater crayfish.

And, yes, we were quite successful in finding the salamander fish, south of Northcliffe (population 200, in the middle of nowhere), where it was in all roadside pools, over white sand bottom, in clear, red-coloured water, with a typical vegetation I do not know to name. In one place we found it together with Galaxiella nigrostriata, which is also a small species, but probably not able to aestivate. Heiko will make available images and detailed information elsewhere, in the meantime enjoy the exclusive habitat of the species.


Habitat of Lepidogalaxias salamandroides near Northcliffe, Western Australia.
Photo Sven O. Kullander. CC-BY-NC

PS. No, it was Maccullochella macquariensis, locally called trout cod, difficult to spell in any case, and maybe should not have eaten because it is an endangered species, something I now have come to know.

At the 8th Indo-Pacific Fish Conference

 meetings, Travel  Kommentarer inaktiverade för At the 8th Indo-Pacific Fish Conference
Jun 022009
 

The 8th Indo-Pacific Fish Conference is actually a gathering of people on a conference about fishes and not a gathering of Indo-Pacific fishes conferencing. At this meeting, in Fremantle, Western Australia, seemingly more ichthyologists than fish in the Swedish seas. It is a very well organised meeting, with excellent service and excellent setting in the […]

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