NANFA-- Fabulous Fishes and intriguing personality test

Irate_Mormon (
Tue, 07 May 2002 22:49:36 -0500

Well, since Jan seems reluctant (too busy) to talk about the event he
organized last Saturday, I'll take up the mantle. "Fabulous Fishes" was
held at the Clinton Community Nature Center near Jackson, MS. Based on
past events we expected an attendance of 200 people, but owing to the fact
that the Jackson paper did not print the press release, we had "only" 115
registered visitors. There were several distinguished visitors to help man
various stations, including Neil Douglas who presented me with an
autographed copy of "Fishes of Louisiana" (Thanks Neil!) since I missed out
on my last opportunity. The attendees were mostly youngsters, who received
some sort of school credit for visiting each of four "mandatory"
stations. Neil staffed the fish ID station, where he had an array of
pickled fishes for the kids to handle and figure out what they were. I had
an "optional" aquarium setup station which was a disaster because the water
was all murky from the gravel I _thought_ I had cleaned. The nice welaka
and signipinnis were totally obscured, but the little gar I had caught two
days previously (whilst searching for sand darters and shadow bass in the
Strong River) displayed himself nicely, despite being picked up off the
carport floor the previous day by my wife as she left for work that
morning. But actually the big hit at the aquarium station was the test kit
(donated by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals) - the kids didn't care about the fish
but loved doing pH, NH3, etc. tests with the little test tubes and
chemicals! There was also a fish scale station - all different kinds of
fish scales the kids could look at with dissecting scopes and what not. I
had to chuckle when I overheard Jan instructing one of the volunteers in
the use of a rather large, curled section of gar skin - "Get them to put
their arm inside and feel what it's like to actually BE a gar...", etc.
:-) There was also a respiration experiment with goldfish and bowfin, a
fishing gear demo, a magnetic "match the fish" game, and perhaps most
interesting was the dissection station manned by Steven George in the
pouring rain (actually helped keep the stench down), featuring paddlefish,
sharks, sturgeon, and I would presume a bony fish or two but I don't
remember seeing one. I enjoyed his demonstration of how to pull out a
notochord! I also got a kick out of his stuffed eel ("He'll mount
ANYTHING" said Jan). There was a fish skeleton station which seemed to be
the biggest hit, and a selection of fish skulls which I personally found
the most interesting. Oh, there was a GAMAKATU (or whatever you call it, I
can never remember) station where you make ink blots of real fishes on
paper, and lots of givaways (which seemed mainly to distract the kids from
the real business at hand). Sadly, the beautiful NANFA display went
largely unnoticed, but lots of NANFA T-shirts were worn :-).

Anyway, after the show wound down, Jan and I had time to discuss various
things, and somehow the topic of melanistic F. chrysotus came up. I
mentioned that I had found a population of these guys, which appear
identical to the xanthic form except wherever the former is yellow, these
guys are BLACK. They look almost like mollies, that's how black they
are. The males in good color have red tails too, just like the normal
xanthic chrysotus, but it looks really awesome against that black body with
lighter bands. Jan said he had seen these too, although not in the same
part of the state. We were comparing habitat notes to see if we could pin
down the reason for this particular adaptation. It will be interesting to
see if the coloration persists in F1 and F2 offspring reared in an
aquarium. I will let you guys know how it works out - evidently nobody is
really investigating these fish.

Lots of photos were taken and presumably will be posted to the NANFA page
when Jan gets back from the field and has time to do so. This was LOADS of
fun and I can't wait to do it again in September. It seems this is the
direction the MS chapter of NANFA is taking, rather than collecting trips,
etc., (I never really thought of it that way until Charlie pointed it out
in his last memo), so that is where my future efforts will be focused.

Oh hey, I just noticed a newborn Heterandria in the mayonaisse-jar
"aquarium" on my desk :-) More another time...


Jackson, MS
Life's a fish and then you fry.
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