Tag Archives: fishes

Sirens of Liège

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

8th Indo-Pacific Fish Conference over

The 8th Indo-Pacific Fish Conference is over here in Fremantle, and tonight is the closing banquet. It has all been very well arranged, and organisers must be content. The Swedish delegation of three, slightly outnumbering the Danish, of two, will gradually move back to the other side of the world.

What were the highlights then. Since I have not attended every one of the six concurrent series of sessions, I must be blamed for zooming in on those where I was present. Ralf Britz (Dracula fish) provided strong arguments for and examples of the use of developmental series in homologisations of morphological characters, and Dave Johnson presented a fascinating story of how Mirapinnidae (known only from larvae), Megalomycteridae (known only from males), and Cetomimidae (known only from females) reflect lifestages and sexes of one and the same family, the Cetomimidae (whalefishes).

Tatsuya Kaga gave a nice, concise presentation of the phylogeny of the Sillaginidae, and Tan Heok Hui presented new data on the systematically and biologically fascinating miniature peat swamp fishes, Paedocypris and Sundadanio.

Bill Eschmeyer received the Bleeker Award in Taxonomy, well deserved for his long-term work on the Catalog of Fishes, a tool ichthyologists refer to daily or at least weekly or they are not ichthyologists.

Yes, that was perhaps the biased view of a morphological systematist. I gave a presentation of a molecular phylogeny of South American cichlids, Te Yu Liao a snapshot of his PhD dissertation on the systematics of Rasbora, which was very nice, and Fang presented the first molecular outcome of the continuing analysis of danionin interrelationships.

I obtained from Martien van Oijen, Naturalis Museum in Leiden, a new, very heavy book: A translation to English of Bleeker’s Ichthyologiae Archipelagi Indici Prodromus. Volumen 1. Siluri. I am personally quite content with the Latin and Dutch version, but this is an important work making Bleeker’s text generally available to the majority of ichthyologists working on Indonesian catfishes. I was informed that the cyprinids are next.

From sturgeons to round gobies

A while ago, I commented on the capture of a Russian sturgeon Acipenser gueldenstaedti, in southern Sweden. The fish now has a home in an aquarium at Universeum, where it moved in 5 May. Universeum is a Science center in Göteborg, located on the Swedish west coast. They have a web cam of their shark tank. I rather want to see the sturgeon!

Meanwhile it appears that German fishery biologists have indeed released plenty of Atlantic Sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrinchus, imported and reared from North American stock. The idea is to re-introduce an extirpated species. Without eliminating any of the adverse factors that killed the sturgeon and threatens all other life in the Baltic: fishery and pollution is just the first name. Will the introduced sturgeon become a further complication in a disturbed ecosystem or will they peacefully die away? Stay tuned.

German newspapers now report on catches (Berliner Morgenpost, 14 May 2009), and a tagged sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus) was caught off Bornholm, a Danish island in the southern Baltic, on 6 May, the identification supported by newspaper photograph.

These sturgeons are apparently from a small number of large meter long sturgeons initially from Canada in 2005 but reared in Germany and recently released into the Baltic. Thousands of baby sturgeon have also been released this Spring according to the article in Berliner Morgenpost. 50 small tagged sturgeons were released in the Elbe in April. All the larger A. oxyrinchus released are tagged, and should be released again if caught — at least if you are a sturgeon fan. If the fish lacks the tag and has a very short snout, it is more likely a totally alien species; it is up to you what to do if you catch one. The expectation is that these fishes shall feed upon the rich benthic fauna in the Baltic and in ten years or so migrate up the Odra River on the border between Poland and Germany, and breed there, so re-establishing the sturgeon in the Baltic. The German Society for Saving the Sturgeon is one active organisation in this work with updated information on Sturgeon releases.

Whatever one may think of these experiments, fishing in the Baltic, always report your sturgeon, irrespective of species, to the nearest museum or other competent authority. Dead or alive there will be use for the information.

Another alien fish species is also coming up here. Last year, in July, a sport fisherman in Karlskrona, on the Baltic coast of southern Sweden, caught a strange fish which he kept in his freezer for a while. In November it was reported to the right scientist, and made some headlines. It was the first Swedish representative of the round goby, Neogobius melanostomus, a Black Sea species which has made itself at home in select locations in the Polish section of the Baltic since about 1990. Just a few days ago, the second specimen was reported, also this time near Karlskrona, which has both an important harbour and archipelago. It will be interesting to follow also the spread of this alien, which unfortunately will not go away as easily as the sturgeons may.

Neogobius melanostomus from Karlskrona, May 2009, NRM 51437.
Photo Bodil Kajrup, Swedish Museum of Natural History, CC-BY-NC.