Arapaima Research Taking New Heights: Aerial Tracking

Dr. Lesley de Souza flies over the Rewa River looking for Arapaima

Guest post by Dr. Lesley de Souza, postdoctoral research associate, Shedd Aquarium

For the past two years I have been studying arapaima movements in the Rewa River drainage and tracking 29 individual arapaima with Shedd Aquarium. A pattern has emerged highlighting that the majority of these tagged individuals are returning to the same place where they were originally tagged. If these arapaima are returning to the same location in the dry season, where are they going when the rainy season floods the forests as far as you can see? We have attempted to track them as the water level begins to rise, but then in a flash they are gone and far into the flooded forests. So where are they?

Dr. Lesley de Souza flies over the Rewa River looking for Arapaima

Getting Off the Ground
Arapaima are endemic to tropical South America, primarily found in the Amazon and Essequibo River drainages. These ancient fish are often times referred to as the “dinosaur” fish and can reach lengths of nearly 10 feet and weight more than 400 pounds. They have persisted through millions of years of dynamic geological history and climatic changes of South America, but recent fishing pressures on Arapaima have made them a vulnerable species throughout their range. Tracking their movements is critical and will enable us to determine what extent of the river drainage they utilize, and determine critical feeding and breeding habitat. Movement data will also help to inform management plans for this species as protecting Arapaima has broader impacts, as a flagship species, and will thus preserve habitat with high biodiversity.

Reviewing maps for aerial tracking

Conventional methods to locate Arapaima using a boat can be costly, time consuming, and practically ineffective during the rainy season. Looking for a better way to track our fish, —> Read More