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Boletín Científico. Centro de Museos. Museo de Historia Natural

Print version ISSN 0123-3068

Bol. Cient. Mus. Hist. Nat. Univ. Caldas vol.14 no.2 Manizales July/Dec. 2010




Henry D. Agudelo-Zamora1, Juan G. Ospina-Pabón1,2 y Luz F. Jiménez-Segura1

* FR: 3-X-2010. FA: 22-X-2010
1 Universidad de Antioquia, Calle 67 No. 53-108, Bloque 7 - 309, Medellín, Colombia. E-mail:;
2 Grupo de Limnología y Recursos Hídricos, Universidad Católica de Oriente. Sector 3, Cra. 46 No. 40B-50, Rionegro, Colombia. E-mail:



En este artículo se revisan los ejemplares del río San Juan de Urabá depositados en museos nacionales e internacionales y, con base en esta revisión y otros estudios publicados, se documenta el primer listado de los peces del río San Juan de Urabá. Hasta la fecha, el conocimiento científico de la fauna íctica de esta región sigue siendo muy pobre. El único estudio sobre el río fue publicado en 1992 y sólo se enfocó en la zona costera donde encontraron 40 especies. Basado en nuestra revisión de especímenes de museos, se identificaron 38 especies en la cuenca, 15 de éstos fueron Perciformes y el orden más abundante. Las cuencas aisladas actúan como sistemas individuales que pueden contener biotas únicas, además son de alta importancia en un contexto biogeográfico, porque ellas actúan como sistemas particulares.

Palabras clave: actinopterygii, diversidad, estuario, Antioquia, Mar Caribe.


In this article fish samples from the San Juan de Urabá River deposited in national and international museums are reviewed, and based on this review and other published studies, the first list of San Juan de Urabá River fish is documented. To date the scientific knowledge of the ichthyofauna of this region continues to be very poor. The only study about the river was published in 1992 and was only focused on the coastal zone where 40 species were found. Bases in our revision of museum specimens, 38 species were identified in the basin, 15 from which were Perciformes, the most abundant order. The isolated basins act as individual systems that may contain unique biotas and also they are of great importance in a biogeographical context because they act as independent systems.

Key words: actinopterygii, diversity, estuary, Antioquia, Caribbean Sea.



The fish of the rivers of northwestern Colombia are poorly sampled and knowledge regarding the icthyofauna remains scarce (DAHL, 1955; ROMÁN-VALENCIA & ACERO, 1992; HAROLD & VARI, 1994). A few articles provide detailed information on fishes in the northern portion of Antioquia (EIGENMANN, 1912, 1920c AND 1922; FOWLER, 1944; DAHL, 1960; ACERO & GARZÓN, 1987; ROMÁN-VALENCIA, 1990). Because the northern areas of Colombia connect Central and South America, they are of special interest to the study of the evolution and biogeography of freshwater fishes (DAHL, 1971; RODRÍGUEZ-OLARTE et al., 2009).

Recently, descriptions of new Colombian freshwater species have appeared regularly (MALDONADO-OCAMPO et al., 2008). MALDONADO-OCAMPO et al. (2005) indicated that knowledge of Colombia's fish fauna is based principally on surveys of the main rivers of the northern Andes (Magdalena and Cauca basins, Figure 1) and of the highlands of Cundinamarca and Boyacá. As the fish fauna of the small streams in these basins are poorly known, research efforts have begun to focus on these smaller streams and have resulted in the discovery to science of new species (DE SANTANA et al., 2004; MALDONADO-OCAMPO et al., 2004; WIJKMARK, 2007; BERTACO, 2008).

The San Juan de Urabá River originates in the Quimarí Peaks (670 m.a.s.l.) of the Abibe Mountains and drains into the Caribbean Sea. The river drains a basin of some 1395 km² (Figure 1), and its total length is approximately 183 km (RUIZ & CEBALLOS, 2005). Some of its principal tributaries are: the San Juancito and Aguas Claras Rivers, and the El Caimán, El Piritu, Caño del Medio, Molenillo, Zapindonga, El Coco, El Paso, and Honda Streams. The basin's rainfall increases from northeast to southwest, varying from 1500 to 2750 mm/year (LARA-MEJÍA, 2004). These tributaries flow through the San Pedro de Urabá, Arboletes, and San Juan de Urabá municipalities, which form part of the northern region of Antioquia or "Urabá Antioqueño" (RUIZ & CEBALLOS, 2005).

The objective of this paper is to identify the ichthyofauna found in the region of San Juan de Urabá River because of its zoogeographic importance and the fact that it has not been well sampled by modern ichthyologists.


We reviewed database records from national (CP-UCO, IAvH-P, ICNMHN, IMCN, IUQ, INVEMAR-P, CSJ, MLS) and internactional museums (NRM, USNM, BMNH, AMNH, CAS, SU, ANSP, MCZ, MNHN, FLMNH) for specimens from the lower San Juan de Urabá River or the San Juan de Urabá Basin. In addition, we conducted direct sampling of the depositional zone of the Basin.

The only previous records for the area are cited in ROMÁN-VALENCIA & ACERO (1992) (specimens deposited in ICNMHN) (see Abbreviations). We directly sampled the depositional zone of the basin. Fish species were identified based on REIS et al. (2003) and MALDONADO-OCAMPO et al. (2005) for freshwater fishes and ESCHMEYER (1998) for marine species. Families are presented in systematic order, but genera and species are in alphabetic order. Species are listed in the column 1 of Table 1. The letters in column 2 indicate the material registered from these collections. The references listed in column 3 are the authors who cited the species from Colombia or boundary rivers (Table 2).

Source of specimens

The specimens used were collected by the third author (L. F. J.-S.). Collecting sites were chosen for convenience, i.e. those easily accessed by boat and/or streams near roads. Collecting sites are indicated by numbers on the map (Figure 1). The material examined is deposited in CIUA. Abbreviations: Institutional abbreviations follow LEVITON et al. (1985) and SABAJ PÉREZ, (2010) except for: CIUA: Colección Ictiologia Universidad de Antioquia, Medellin, Antioquia – Colombia. CP-UCO: Colección Peces, Universidad Católica de Oriente, Rionegro, Antioquia – Colombia. IAvH-P: Colección de Peces dulceacuícolas, Instituto Alexander von Humbolt, Villa de Leyva, Boyacá – Colombia. IMCN: Colección ictiológica de referencia Museo de Ciencias Naturales Federico Carlos Lehmann Valencia. Colección Zoológica de Referencia Científica "IMCN" Instituto para la Investigación y Preservación del Patrimonio Cultural y Natural del Valle del Cauca –INCIVA–. IUQ: Colección de Ictiología Universidad del Quindío, Armenia, Quindío – Colombia. INVEMAR-P: Museo de Historia Natural Marina de Colombia, Santa Marta – Colombia.


Table 2 records the list of fish species sampled from the lower San Juan de Urabá river basin. We found a total of 38 species in 10 orders and 24 families. The orders with the most species are Perciforms (15), Characiforms (9), and Siluriforms (5). We found two species of Carcharhiniforms and all the others orders had just one species (Table 1).


Review of San Juan de Urabá River

With the aim of inspiring further research on the fisheries of the San Juan de Urabá River, we offer some preliminary considerations regarding the ichthyofauna of the lower sections of this river. In the past, from Eigenmann (1912 to1923) forward, most researchers sampling fishes in northern Colombia have "jumped" from the Atrato to the Sinú River or San Jorge Drainages, leaving a gap in the coverage (see EIGENMANN, 1912 and Plate I; EIGENMANN, 1920c, 1921). Because the San Juan de Urabá basin apparently includes species from Panama as well as from adjacent basins, we believe it's important to correctly identify the species of these basins (Atrato, Sinú, and Magdalena). This is the first listing of species from the San Juan de Urabá River Basin and furthers zoogeographic understanding of the region. Since the fish of the region were poorly known, previous studies of regional ichthyofaunas constructed zoogeographic provinces without taking the San Juan de Urabá and the Mulatos River Basins into account, thus excluding an important section of northern Colombia (RODRÍGUEZ-OLARTE et al., 2009).

The region has been geologically molded by the events of formation the Isthmus of Panamá, that occurred between the late Miocene and Pliocene, and also by the formation of mountain ranges of Colombia (DUQUE-CARO, 1990). The formation of the Isthmus led to the great faunal exchange between North and South America (BERMINGHAM & MARTIN, 1998). The closure of the ocean waters by the uplifting of Panamá's isthmus did, however, caused the loss the exchange of other fauna in the area (WEBB, 1985; PORTA, 2003; RODRÍGUEZ-OLARTE et al., 2009).

Although we present a checklist for fishes of San Juan River, we understand there continues to be a gap in scientific knowledge for Colombian fish species. We encourage fish researchers to carry out sampling programs throughout this and other basins so as, to determine the total number of species present and their importance to our national biodiversity and to the biogeographic patterns for South American freshwater fishes.


We would like to thank Donald Taphorn, Nancy Dammann and the evaluator for their comments on the final manuscript. We would also like to thank the Curators of the museums that allowed us access to their collections for the study zone. This paper is the partial result of the Antioquia Expedition Project. Thank you as well to Ricardo Callejas Posada for making the ichthyology component part of the Antioquia Expedition Project.



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