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The Amazon

hi karen et al,

i just wanted to comment on your trip to the amazon.  I WISH I WAS THERE.  
but hopefully charlene (charlene, are you out there?) will let us know next 
time the tennessee aquarium does this again.  i am going to southern brazil 
next week (for a terrestrial plants trip) so i couldn't have gone on both 

anyway, since i was a kid growing up in sao paulo, i had been fascinated with 
the amazon and its aquatic fauna.  certainly it is an ocean of freshwater, 
the flow is so strong at the delta that for miles into the sea, it is 
freshwater and not brackish!  the biomass is so rich that many families of 
opportunistic saltwater fish have invaded it, including not only croakers 
(Scianidae), sardines, herrings (Clupeiformes), toadfishes 
(Batrachoidiformes), but also sharks and sawfish (!!!) which have been caught 
far upstream.  i am particularly interested in its rich native ichthyofauna, 
especially the Gymnotiformes (knifefish) which are found nowhere else.  they 
are now finally studying this group with more research, and finding out all 
sorts of neat adaptations, including those that live in dark waters.  in 
these waters, they have found some totally blind knifefish (and catfish) 
which get by with electroreception.  for example, some species (like cichlids 
in the rift lake) feed exclusively on scales and fins of other knifefish!  
and in shapes and forms, they are as interesting to me as catfish (which i 
also love).  and of course, the catfish, cichlids and characoids are 
immensely diverse in shapes, forms and adaptations, that studying them all 
would be a lifelong pursuit to legions of people.

and yes, from what i hear, tiny candiru are the most feared fish in the 
amazon, more so than piranhas, electric eels or stingrays.  i heard a story 
about someone who went to the amazon and before going into the water would 
put on a ... condom (!!!!).

anyway, good luck on your giant pimelodids!  as a child i used to be 
fascinated seeing those huge fish at the local fish markets!  just don't feed 
your children to them (unless they misbehave).

tsuh yang chen, nyc