A tale of two catfishes: Yaqui and Chihuahua
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While the Yaqui Catfish, Ictalurus pricei, has a long history of listing and conservation interest, the still undescribed Chihuahua Catfish remains largely unknown to many working on fishes and aquatic resource management in its range. Like Yaqui Catfish, it is similar to the ubiquitous Channel Catfish, and until awareness is increased, it will remain understudied and with little protection. Also like Yaqui Catfish, hybridization with closely related species greatly confounds research and recovery efforts. Known only from an unfinished manuscript describing it, and many specimens identified cryptically (since it remains undescribed) as this species in a few collections' databases, and occasional mentions in the literature, its historic distribution includes most of the Rio Grande/Bravo watershed (including all 3 major sub-basins (Conchos, Pecos, Grande/Bravo) and a relatively small area of the Gila River basin. It appears to be now very rare, and it appears to hybridize with both I. punctatus and I. lupus. Cytochrome b sequences obtained from one recently collected specimen from each the Gila basin and the Conchos basin in Chihuahua (at or very near the manuscript's type locality), indicate two divergent haplotypes. The manuscript's authors did not recognize that divergence, and considered it introduced in the Gila, so did not include specimens from there in their morphological analysis, but thought the form there to be introduced from the Río Grande/Pecos. We'll here present images of specimens, and summarize the diagnostic characters known from the manuscript, though hybridization clearly confounds morphological diagnosis. All those collecting catfishes anywhere in the species' broad range are asked to be aware of its existence, and to deposit large series of vouchers and tissues in museum collections for future efforts to better diagnose these rare fishes and conserve them.
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