Welcome to the wonderful world of Loricariid catfish !

with special emphasis on the wood-eating genus Panaque

Pictures & data by Jay Nelson, Don Stewart (SUNY-Syracuse) and Hirofumi Nonogaki (Center for Marine Biotechnology, Baltimore)

Why study Loricariids ?

  • With 70 genera and ~ 800-1000 species, Loricariidae is one of the most speciose families of freshwater fish & the most speciose Siluriiform family
  • An evolutionary success of this magnitude begs an explanation, however the ecology and physiology of Loricariids are virtually unknown
  • This evolutionary success has occurred while exploiting primarily low trophic levels (i.e. carnivory is almost absent in Loricariids) and is therefore unusual
  • Below is a link to a pic of a generalized Loricariid:

Hypostomus regani

These guys have a lot of interesting biology, including the ability to breath air with their digestive tract when the water oxygen levels are too low. See:NSF Funded gut microclimate and air breathing study

for a description of some air-breathing studies that I carried out in the laboratory of Tadeu Rantin

in Sao Carlos, Brazil. Here seen dancing with the natives at the Fish Congress in Manaus, 2004.

The published account of the experiments is here: Chapter 10, Fish respiration book

And a chapter of the Fish Physiology series on using the gut for air breathing in fish, co-authored with my graduate student Mickey Dehn can be found here: Fish Physiology chapter

Stop # 1, the mouth:

This is what the mouth of a Panaque looks like: this happens to be an undescribed species.

Here we see what the whole fish looks like:


And, in case you wanted a little closer look at those teeth:


And now, for the closest view yet:


Now I think you can imagine that they actually do eat wood !

For some of the work that has actually been completed go to:


Panaque respirometry paper
Abstract from enzyme/microbiology paper
Jay Nelson's Homepage