|Jensen and guys from the |
Fisheries Department in front
of a huge termite mound.
As the fish team's boat twisted through the papyrus channels, our journey was peppered by glimpses of the iridescent blue Malachite kingfisher (Alcedo cristata). We stopped at a sandy inlet, which turned out to be a small island separating a grassy lagoon from the main travel channel.
The shore of this tiny island was slippery with clay-like soil, very rare in this area where the ground is entirely sand. Grass-eating termites mix the sand with their saliva to form a sticky, clay-like substance which they mold into mounds over 2 meters high.
Heedless of the potential for crocodiles and snakes (the fish team found a highly poisonous black mamba the day before), Roger Bills, fish team leader, and crew sloshed into the still waters with a small seine and gill nets and sampled the zone. "We found quite high diversity of fishes here," Roger told me. "Ten species in one seine net." Half of the catch were species of barb. Shown here are the Copper-striped barb (Barbus multilineatus) and Red barb (Barbus fasciolatus).
|Red barb (Barbus fasciolatus) and Copper-striped barb (Barbus multilineatus). |
These Latin names sound complicated at first, but to scientists they tell a story. The first word is always the genus, which is a group of closely related species. The second word is species specific and may describe the organism's physical characteristics.
As you can see, Barbus multilineatus has many parallel lines running horizontally above the copper stripe on the fish's side. If the last word of the species name has the suffix of "ensis" (as in "genesis") it is signifying where this organism was originally described. In this case we caught the Barbus thamalakanensis which is a barb first collected in the Thamalakane River and which occurs widely in the Okavango Delta.
Sometimes species are also named after people for a variety of reasons. They may have sponsored the expedition, done a good deal of work in the area, or it may be named after the person who found the new species. AquaRAP's Ben van der Waal has a squeaker fish native to the Okavango Delta named after him: Synodontis vanderwaali.
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