On 8 July 2001, we traveled to the upper Rio Tuy drainage in hopes of finding some viable collecting locations. On Highway 1 between Caracas and Maracay we exited south on Highway 6 towards Tacata. The map shows that Highway 6 crosses the Rio Tuy in the mountains and then follows the Tuy all the way to the town of Cua. After about 30 minutes on some very windy roads (although the views were fantastic) we crossed the Fila Las Vargas and descended into the Tuy drainage.
As is typical in the upper courses of rivers, the Tuy here does not run through a large flat floodplain but instead the river sits in a steep gorge making its way through the mountains. I was very excited when we finally reached the bridge before Tacata and unloaded the collecting equipment. Then the worst kind of disaster struck. no fish! We sampled about 200 feet of the river including pools, riffles, overhanging plants, and structure with both a ten foot seine and a three foot hoop net and we did not turn up so much as a guppy. There are no major towns upriver from this collecting location and the pollution (tires, cans, and other trash) appeared no worse than normal
Upriver, the Tuy does form a large floodplain near El Consejo that is extensively used for growing sugar cane. Perhaps the farmers are using some sort of fertilizer and / or pesticide that has killed off the fish? During my trip earlier in the week to the Rio Aragua, locals told me that there were lots of fishes in the Tuy above El Consejo at Quebrada Seca. So we know that there are fishes above El Consejo, and in the two largest tributaries of the Tuy after El Consejo (Rios Tarma and Guare), but we could not find any in the Tuy itself. This is really a shame since if you are familiar with Schultz' (1945) "The Catfishes of Venezuela," then you are aware that many catfishes were described or recorded by him at from the Tuy at El Consejo.
After all that driving, I was hardly ready to call it a day and we continued southeast to Tacata. From Tacata, a small road (Road 7) branches south and runs through the village Tacata Arriba and continues to Altagracia de La Montana basically following the Rio Guare. We decided to take this road and see if the Rio Guare was in a better state than the Tuy. We finally stopped where Road 7 crosses the Rio Guare above Tacata Arriba (I mean literally crosses as there is no bridge and the river must be forded). We quickly learned that the Rio Guare is still teeming with fish and the first scoop of the hoop net produced a big surprise, a Farlowella. I have carefully checked all of my resources at hand and can find no previous records of Farlowella from the Rio Tuy drainage. Schultz (1945) mentions a specimen of F. acus that he observed from Eigenmann's 1920 collection with the locality "El Consejo, Rio Tiquirito, Venezuela." I am unable to locate the Rio Tiquirito on any map (perhaps the name has changed), but just east of El Consejo is the village of Tiquire (Tiquirito means little Tiquire) that is located in the Lake Valencia drainage. This would be a logical location for F. acus since this fish is known only from the Lake Valencia drainage. However, it still means that there are no records of any Farlowella species from the Rio Tuy drainage.
Despite my early luck, I was only able to collect two three-inch specimens over the day. This Farlowella has a long thin rostrum like F. vittata and the caudal fin markings are very distinctive. There is dark brown pigmentation along the upper and lower portions of the caudal, but the pigmentation is completely broken halfway along the fin by a clear ocelli. According to Retzer and Page's 1997 revision of Farlowella, this caudal pattern is not present in any long-nosed Venezuelan Farlowella species.
We also turned up more specimens of L 122. The distribution of this species raises several questions since I have now found it in the Orinoco basin (Rio Zuata), Lake Valencia basin (Rio Aragua), and the Rio Tuy basin (Rios Guare and Tarma). Either this species has a very wide distribution or we are dealing with a complex of closely related loricariids found throughout northern Venezuela. I have on hand specimens from the Rio Aragua and will collect some soon from the Rio Zuata in order to make detailed observations of the three populations. There is also a very similar appearing species from the upper Rio Orinoco in southern Venezuela that has a deeply forked caudal and has also been imported to Germany as L 122. Lastly, we found a little Chaetostoma species very similar to L 187 (Aqualog p. 70). This fish was abundant and we caught specimens ranging from fry that had just absorbed their yolk sac to adults measuring four-inches total length. Other fishes captured included a species of tetra with a small red spot on the caudal peduncle (very similar to the tetra sp. in the Rio Zuata), a pike cichlid, and guppies.
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