Three new South American fish identified

COLLEGE STATION -- It all started with an aquarium his father bought for the family home in Venezuela. The fish swam and ate and created an environment that captivated the watchful eye of then-10-year-old Hernan Lopez-Fernandez.

"One of the first fish of my own was called a Texas Cichlid," Lopez-Fernandez said. "I was hooked on fish." Little did the young South American boy realize the role Texas would play in his life. Now a doctoral student in Texas A&M University's wildlife and fisheries science department, Lopez-Fernandez's research into the fish of his homeland recently resulted in the discovery of three new species. One of them he named after his favorite Texas fish scientist Dr. Kirk O. Winemiller.

The discovery of the three new species ? Geophagus abalios, G. dicrozoster and G. winemilleri ? was published recently in the journal Zootaxa with co-author Donald Taphorn of the University of the Llanos in Venezuela. The descriptions of the new species, part of the Cichlidae family, are helpful to those who study ecology and how to protect the environment.

"Geophagus winemilleri is a beautiful tropical fish that can be found in both the ornamental fish trade and the fish markets of Brazil," said Winemiller, the fish's namesake and ecology and evolutionary biologist for the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.

"I advise students who work on taxonomy that it is not a good practice to name new species after people. Instead, designated Latin names ought to describe some morphological, ecological, or geographic aspect associated with the species," Winemiller noted. "Perhaps it is fortunate that my students don't listen to me, and we can make an exception in this case."

Lopez-Fernandez grins when told about his mentor's response. "It can be appropriate to name a species after a person," he said. "He's a really important researcher internationally in this area, and he has organized most of the expeditions in the area where specimens o

Contact: Kathleen Phillips
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications

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