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NEW TO THE SITE (last update December, 2009)
SciCafe AMNH Science Cafe features the science of the Congo Project
If you are in town this Wednesday January 6th come on over to the AMNH's Science Cafe where surrounded by magnificent geological specimens in the Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth, you can enjoy the Museum after hours with music, drinks, and thought-provoking conversation at the next installment of the popular new SciCafe series at the American Museum of Natural History. SciCafe features cutting-edge science, cocktails, and conversation and takes place on the first Wednesday of every month. This month's SciCafe features Mysteries of the Congo: Exploring the World’s Deepest River which will take place in AMNH’s Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth on Wednesday, January 6th at 7 p.m. Checkout SciCafe for a short preview.
Biobulletin CongoProject featured in AMNH Biobulletin
Visit AMNH Science Bulletins on the AMNH's website and scroll through CURRENT STORIES on right hand column - then click on the Bio Feature Evolution in Action: Isolation and Speciation in the Lower Congo River to view the latest video on the project. Or catch it on YouTube.
SciShow Congo Project featured in Smithsonian Magazine
Visit Smithsonian Magazine to read the recent article "Evolution in the Deepest River in the World" by Kyle Dickman, one of the whitewater kayakers who naviagted the river from Pool Malebo to Pioka some 90km downstream during our 2008 field season in Bas Congo.
Raoul Monsembula Raoul Monsembula visits the Ichthyology Department to begin work on his Ph.D.thesis
After undertaking a series of preliminary studies in the region, University of Kinshasa graduate student, Raoul Monsembula, has located the study site for his Ph.D thesis research. His study will focus on the biodiversity, ecology and conservation of the ichthyofauna of the Nsele River, a large southern affluent of Pool Malebo. In addition to providing an inventory of the river's fishes his thesis will include a focus on the taxonomy, ecology, and fisheries management of the economically important Distichodus in the river. With it's close proximity to Kinshasa, increasing urbanization in the watershed, deforestation (primarily now focused on the remaining riperian cover) for charcoal supply to Kinshasa, and increasing fishing pressure, the system is undergoing a major transformation. Baseline documentation of biodiversity, habitat utilization, and hydrological conditions is an essential step towards sustainable management of the rich aquatic resources of the system. During late October and November Raoul began assembling materials and literature at the museum for his ongoing studies. Raoul is a Ph.D candidate at the University of Kinshasa where he is jointly supervised by Professors Dieudonné Musibono and Melanie Stiassny.
SciShow CongoProject featured on Australian Radio
Visit the Science Show on Austrailia's ABC Radio National Radio to hear a report on our recent work in Bas Congo or download a transcript of the show.
Anton Lamboj Anton Lamboj visits the Ichthyology Department
Anton Lamboj (University of Vienna) visited the department in September 2009 continuing collaborative studies with Bob Schelly and Melanie Stiassny. Work continues on a revision of the cichlid genus Hemichromis. Anton also took some time to finalize the description of a new species of Danakilia. Specimens of the new species were collected in the isolated Lake Badda in the Danakil Depression of Eritrea by Giuseppe De Marchi during an expedition to the lake in 1998. Unfortunately we have been unable to extract viable DNA sequences from the specimens, but morphological divergence from the known populations of Danakilia franchettii from Lake Afdera in the Afar region of Ethiopia are clear.
Paffa CongoProject featured on Scholastic's Science Explorations website
Visit the Scholastic kid's website to see videos of our field work in the lower Congo and our search for the exact locality for the mysterious blind cichlid Lamprologus lethops. Scholastic is the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books in the United States. AMNH and Scholastic are partnering to promote science literacy among students in grades 4-12 with Science Explorations, a project that features museum research in 4-page articles in Scholastic’s classroom science magazines Science World (grades 6–10) and Super Science (grades 4–6), and on the Scholastic.com website. Science World and Super Science are both nationally distributed with a wide readership, and Scholastic.com has an estimated 1 in 3 K-8 educator visits each month.
Alestes New PDF Available

A new species of Alestes is described from the Mpozo River, near its confluence with the lower Congo mainstream in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Alestes liebrechtsii and the new species, Alestes inferus, are the only species of the genus known from the lower Congo River
Paffa CongoProject featured on national television
The Congo Project research program was featured on a recent National Geographic Explorer Special which aired on February on national television. The television show highlighted the extraordinary biodiversity of this stretch of the Congo River and showcased the ongoing research of the Congo Project team as they discovered and documented the powerful hydrological forces driving the spectacular diversification of fishes in this short stretch of river.
Sinaseli Emmanuel Vreven visits the AMNH Ichthyology Department
In February 2009 Emmanuel Vreven from the Africa Museum, Tervuren, Belgium made his first visit to the department in New York. Emmanuel will spend three weeks at the museum examining recent and historical collections of fishes from the Bas Congo region. His primary focus is on the region's rich endemic fauna of mastacembelids but he will take the opportunity to tackle a wide range of "taxonomic problems" - of which there is no shortage to be found among the fishes of this extraordinarily rich and complex stretch of the Congo River. Emmanuel is working with colleagues at the African Museum, and from around the World, on a planned volume on the fresh and brackish water fishes of Bas Congo and Pool Malebo.
Sinaseli Sinaseli Tshibwabwa continues study of Labeo from the lower Congo region
In January 2009 Sinaseli Tshibwabwa returned to New York to continue collaborative studies on the cyprinid genus Labeo. In collaboration with Melanie Stiassny and graduate student, Jake Lowenstein, Sina is describing a new Labeo from the vicinity of Luozi in Bas Congo Province, DRC. Based on materials collected over the past two years by Congo Project graduate student, Justin Mbimbi,in the Lulua River (Kasai region) Sina has located a number of taxonomic problems with the Labeo of the Lulua region. Molecular analyses utilizing a combination of nuclear and mitochondrial markers is now underway and it is anticipated that this will help inform the morphological work that Sina is undertaking.
Thesis Monsembula Thesis

Raoul Monsembula successfully defended his thesis "INVENTAIRE ET MODES D'EXPLOITATION DE L'ICHTYOFAUNE DES RIVIERES DU PARC NATIONAL DE LA SALONGA" (Diplôme d'Etudes Approfondies en Biologie, Universite de Kinshasa). In the study three principle rivers were investigated; the Luilaka, Salonga and Yenge with 28 sites sampled during two seasons. The presence of 129 species (in 67 genera, 22 families) was documented in the main river channels. Physico-chemical analyses revealed strongly humic, acid waters with extremely low dissolved oxygen. Management problems in the region center on unregulated fishing (especially the illegal use of ichthyotoxins) and the draining of nursery zones. Raoul plans to continue survey efforts in the park and will sample a range peripheral habitats in affluent streams and swamp forest.
Anton Lamboj Anton Lamboj visits the Ichthyology Department
Anton Lamboj (University of Vienna) visited the department in November 2008 to continue collaborative studies with Bob Schelly and Melanie Stiassny. Work continues on a revision of the notoriously challenging cichlid genus Hemichromis. Using a combined approach we are assembling characters of morphology, behaviour, and molecular sequence divergence to try and resolve the problematic taxonomy of this important group of cichlids. Anton additionally took some time to examine specimens of Danakilia and together with Melanie Stiassny plans on describing a new species of this enigmatic cichlid genus.
Chrysichthys New PDF Available

A new species of small, sexually dimorphic Chrysichthys is described from Lac Mai-Ndombe in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ongoing studies with our colleague Michael Hardman are aimed at clarifying the species composition of this problematic genus in the lower Congo region.
Paffa PAFFA 2008
Congo Project participants Melanie Stiassny, Victor Mamonekene and Raoul Monsembula attended the 4th International Conference of the Pan African Fish and Fisheries Association (PAFFA): African Fishes and Fisheries, Diversity and Utilization, held this September in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The conference was hosted by the Department of Biology, Addis Ababa University and the newly formed Ethiopian Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Association. This highly successful conference provided an excellent opportunity for scientists and students from throughout Africa and around the world to come together, to get to know one another, exchange information and ideas, and to initiate collaborative studies. The prize for the best student oral presentation was awarded to our colleague Armel Ibala Zamba for an excellent update on his work on the ichthyofauna of the Luki and Lefini rivers of the Congo basin.
clypeobarbus New PDF Available

The subgenus Clypeobarbus is elevated to generic rank and currently includes seven species, two of which Clypeobarbus congicus and Clypeobarbus pleuropholis are found in the lower Congo region.
ConGen CongoProject team members at IUCN Central Africa freshwater biodiversity assessment workshop, Yaoundé, June 2008

In June, 2008 Melanie Stiassny joined Congo Project participants Victor Mamonekene and Armel Ibala from the University of Marien Ngouabi, Republic of Congo, and Raoul Monsembula and Professor Seraphin Ufuta from the University of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo at an IUCN workshop in Yaoundé Cameroon. The IUCN Central Africa freshwater biodiversity assessment workshop brought together freshwater biologists from all over the central african region, as well as specialists from North America and Europe. Taxonomic groups represented at the workshop were aquatic plants, dragonflies, molluscs and - of course - fishes.

A. Armel Ibala, Raoul Monsembula and Seraphin Ifuta at work on the Congo basin fish assessment.

Victor Mamonekene was a key participant in the Lower Guinea working group, and presented the results of his group's assessment to the assembled workshop at the end of the five day meeting.

B. Victor Mamonekene presenting the preliminary results of the Lower Guinea fish assessment.



Melanie Stiassny, Raoul Monsembula, Armel Ibala and Seraphin Ifuta participated in the Congo basin fish assessment, working together with a large group from around the Congo basin including the Central African Republic and Zambia. Preparatory work had been carried out by Jos Snoeks and Tuur Moelen from the AFrica Museum, Belgium and their efforts to database current knowledge of the regions rich ichthyofauna was an invaluable aid to the group. At the end of the workshop Seraphin Ifuta gave a summary of the progress made by our working group. The workshop was an excellent first step towards a basin-wide assessment, but it was also very clear that there is much more work needing to done before a comprehensive understanding of the status and threats to the region's rich ichthyofauna can be fully documented.


C. Seraphin Ifuta presenting the preliminary results of the Congo basin fish assessment.
NSFsite Congo Project featured on National Science Foundation website
The Congo Project is featured on the homepage of the US National Science Foundation. The NSF is the main sponsor of the CongoProject with funding from the NSF Biotic Surveys and Inventories Program. Check out this and other NSF funded research at link - enter 'Congo Project' in the search box at the top of the page to find the feature.
LiveScience Congo Project featured on LiveScience website
The Congo Project is featured on the LiveScience website. Check out this link to visit the site.
Colbert Water is Life...
Melanie Stiassny tried in vain to educate our "friend and colleague" Mr.Steven Colbert on the importance of water to all life on the planet. Sadly her efforts appear to have been for nought - as can be seen in this short video airing as Water is Life on a recent Colbert Report.
John and Tom John Friel and Tom Vigliotta visit department
In mid-March John Friel and Tom Vigliotta (Cornell University) visited the department to examine recently collected mochokid catfishes. They are concentrating their studies on the taxonomically challenging genera Atopochilus,Euchilichthys,Microsynodontis, and Chiloglanis. Both John and Tom are working closely with the All Catfish Species Inventory which has a mission to facilitate the discovery, description an dissemination of knowledge of all catfish species by a global consortium of taxonomists and systematists. Recently they provided a preliminary key to the genera of mochokid catfishes of the lower Congo region to the Congo project. Their key is available here.
Sinaseli Sinaseli Tshibwabwa continues study of Labeo from the lower Congo region
Early in March 2008, our colleague Sinaseli Tshibwabwa returned to New York to examine material of the cyprinid genus Labeo collected over the past year. In the course of identifying the numerous specimens Sina has found species not previously recorded from the lower Congo River. He also found some material of a possibly undescribed species, collected by the team last Summer in the vicinity of Luozi. Based on Sina's recent identifications we are able to document the presence of 22 Labeo species in Pool Malebo and the lower Congo River. Sina plans on returning to New York in the Fall to continue documention of the region's Labeo.
Jeff Markert Jeff Markert begins collaborative studies with the Congo Project
Jeff Markert visited the department in early February to discuss plans for future collaboration with the Congo Project. Jeff has an impressive body of experience in molecular biology and population genetics, and has worked on diverse taxonomic models ranging from Drosphila through Darwin's ground finches, to his current studies of a new laboratory model, the patriotically named shrimp Americamysis bahia. But the wealth of Jeff's experience is with the study of cichlid genetics and evolution and he will be bringing his technical and academic expertise to the team to join in our studies of the diversification of cichlid fishes in the lower Congo River system. For more details of Jeff's interests and accomplishments visit his website where you can download pdf's of his recent publications.
Raoul Monsembula Raoul Monsembula visits the Ichthyology Department
Congo Project participant, Raoul Monsembula, a graduate student at the University of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, returned to the department in January to continue his studies of the fishes of Salonga National Park. He now has samples from the Luilaka River collected in both the dry and the wet seasons. Raoul's study which is jointly supported by the AMNH Congo Project, WWF CARPO and the University of Kinshasa includes a comprehensive baseline inventory of the fishes of the Luilaka River, a large tributary in the southern sector of the park. While at the AMNH Raoul took the opportunity to get some training in the department's molecular laboratory. He plans on defending his masters thesis in March of this year, and will be joining us on our next field trip in June-July.
Victor Mamonekene Victor Mamonekene visits the Ichthyology Department
Early in 2008 our friend and Congo Project collaborator from the Republic of Congo, Victor Mamonekene, returned to the department to spend six weeks working on recent collections he has made in the Sangha River, Lengoué River (Likouala-Mossaka basin), and Kouilou-Nairi basin (including the Loeme River). During his stay Victor received training in the Museum's Molecular Laboratories and initiated a study investigating population structure and diversification of the cichlid genus, Chilochromis from throughout its range in the southern portions of the Lower Guinean province. After returning to Brazzaville in late February to continue collecting efforts in the Lac Telle region Victor will be joining us on our next field trip in June-July 2008.
Volume1 New book Available


Now available: the first of a two volume series Poissons d'eaux douces et saumâtres de Basse Guinée, ouest de l'Afrique centrale - The fresh and brackish water fishes of Lower Guinea, west-Central Afrca. This bilingual fauna provides a summary of the taxonomy and distribution of the fresh and brackish water fishes of the Lower Guinean ichthyofaunal province of West-Central Africa; an area ranging from the Cross River in south-eastern Nigeria to the Angolan province of Cabinda and the Republic of Congo. The region is highly biogeographically distinctive and is home to more than 580 fish species, of which a great number appear to be endemic. The present study is a continuation of the volume on the Fishes of West Africa published in this series in 2003.
Anton Lamboj Anton Lamboj visits the Ichthyology Department
Anton Lamboj (University of Vienna) made his annual trip to New York to continue collaborative studies with Bob Schelly and Melanie Stiassny. Currently we are jointly working on a revision of the notoriously challenging cichlid genus Hemichromis. Using a combined approach we are assembling characters of morphology, behaviour, and molecular sequence divergence to try and resolve the problematic taxonomy of this important group of cichlids.
micralestes New PDF Available

A new dwarf alestid from the vicinity of Inga on the lower Congo River, Bas Congo Province, Democratic Republic of Congo is described. Assignment of the new taxon to the poorly defined genus Micralestes is discussed and justified on the basis of available morphological character data.
Mastacembelus news New key to Mastacembelus


A new illustrated key to the Mastacembelus species of Lower Congo and Pool Malebo has been added to Taxonomic Keys in the Other Resources section of the website. The key is currently available in English and the French version is coming soon.
ConGen Melanie Stiassny and Bob Schelly presentation

On September 28th, 2007 Melanie Stiassny presented a paper, co-authored by Bob Schelly, at the 3rd International Conservation Genetics Symposium. The meeting was sponsored by the American Genetics Association and held at the Sackler Institute of Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History. The program abstract read as follows:
The Congo River is the largest biogeographical barrier in Africa – yet we know remarkably little about the history of the system. Geologists estimate that perhaps as recently as 400,000 years ago the Congo was a large lake in the middle of Africa with no outflow to the Atlantic. At some point the Congo breached the Batéke Plateau in the region of present day Malebo Pool (ex-Stanley Pool), most of the lake was drained and a 'new' river cascaded down through gorges of the Crystal Mountain region, dropping about 280m over 350km to reach the Atlantic Ocean. Today, in the Lower Congo River are found some of the most spectacular rapids on Earth and a rich endemic fish fauna. The peculiar hydrology of the Lower Congo with its linear array of variously sized rapids each separated by pools and runs represents a biohydrologic model system for exploring mechanisms underlying the patterns of species richness and endemism that are being documented for the region. One group of rapids-adapted species are members of the cichlid genus Teleogramma and in this project, patterns of character variation in morphology and molecular sequence are being assessed across the range of T. brichardi, T. depressum, and T. gracile along the course of the Lower Congo main stem. For the morphological component, two landmark based geometric morphometric studies were conducted, focusing on both whole-body external shape and cranial anatomy. Principal Components Analysis (PCA) revealed some separation among geographical populations, but a certain degree of overlap was observed. In contrast, molecular analyses using mitochondrial CO1 and ND2 revealed a marked separation between populations of T. brichardi on opposite banks of the Congo, separated by an intervening rapid, just downstream of Malebo Pool. These preliminary results challenge the current taxonomy of the genus, and beg for further investigation of potential introgression and isolation across geographic axes both up- and downstream as well as on opposite banks of the main stem.
Cyprinid news Clé provisoire illustrée des genres de Cyprinidae En Français


A French translation of the illustrated key to the Cyprinid genera of Lower Congo and Pool Malebo has been added to Taxonomic Keys in the Other Resources section of the website.
formal How to take tissue samples


New to the Methods section of the site is an explanation of how to take tissue samples for molecular analysis.
formal How to preserve fish specimens


New to the Methods section of the site is a guide to the preparation of well-preserved fish specimens for long-term storage and for shipment.
Citharinus news New key to Citharinus


A new illustrated key to the Citharinus species of Lower Congo and Pool Malebo has been added to Taxonomic Keys in the Other Resources section of the website. The key is currently available in English and the French version is coming soon.
Labeo news New Featured Fish


The second in our series of "Featured Fish" is Labeo fulakariensis and can be found by clicking on the Featured Fish icon on the Introduction page of the site.
Stomatorhinus news New key to Stomatorhinus


A new illustrated key to the Stomatorhinus species of Lower Congo and Pool Malebo has been added to Taxonomic Keys in the Other Resources section of the website. The key is currently available in English and the French version is coming soon.
Mochokidae news New key to Mochokidae


A new illustrated key to the mochokid genera of Lower Congo and Pool Malebo has been added to Taxonomic Keys in the Other Resources section of the website. The key is currently available in English and the French version is coming soon.
congochromis New PDF Available


Congochromis, a new cichlid genus from Central Africa is described on the basis of a suite of anatomical features of the laterosensory system, infraorbital series, oral dentition, and squamation. The new genus is distinguished from its sister-genus, Nanochromis.
Featured Fish Featured Fish

The first in our series of "Featured Fish" is Brycinus comptus described in 1976 by Roberts and Stewart but overlooked in much of the recent literature. Information about this poorly known species can be found by clicking on its icon on the Introduction page of our site. Check back regularly as we will be featuring a range of other Lower Congo species in the coming months.
Nichols and Griscom PDF of Nichols and Griscom's classic paper available The library of the AMNH has recently made available for free download a pdf of the classic paper by Nichols and Griscom (1917) on the Fresh-water fishes of the Congo basin obtained by the American Museum Congo Expedition, 1909-1915. This (large) pdf can be downloaded from our "Other Resources" page by selecting "Historical Publications" and then scrolling down to 1917. For more information about the American Museum Congo Expedition of 1909-1915 visit the "Lang Chapin" pages also in "Other Resources" section of this site.


Recent Visitors
Paul Skelton Paul Skelton visits department
Our friend and Museum Research Associate, Paul Skelton, spent a few days in the AMNH department of Ichthyology in June, 2007. Paul dropped-in to catch-up with local gossip and to cast his expert eye over our recent collections of amphiliids. Paul, who is Director of The South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB), is an expert on amphiliid systematics in particular and a tremendous resource on African fishes in general. As always it is a pleasure to see him back in New York.
Kevin Conway Kevin Conway and friend
University of Saint Louis graduate student, Kevin Conway, spent three weeks in the AMNH department of Ichthyology in April, 2007. The trip was financed by a student fellowship awarded by the DeepFin network (NSF DEB 0443470) and young master Kevin came to New York to learn how to undertake myological dissection from New York's queen of the scalpel, Melanie Stiassny. In between unravelling the mysteries of cypriniform musculature Kevin and Melanie completed a manuscript entitled "Phylogenetic diagnosis of the African cyprinid genus Clypeobarbus Fowler, with the rehabilitation of C. bomokandi (Myers) and notes on included species. The paper has been submitted to the journal Ichthyological Research and Kevin returned to Saint Louis. Kevin's collaboration with the project continues.
Victor Mamonekene l.t.r. Ian Harrison, Bob Schelly, Ms Mary and Victor Mamonekene after an invigorating hike in the Hudson Valley
Early in 2007 our friend and collaborator from the Republic of Congo, Victor Mamonekene, spent six weeks in the department of Ichthyology in New York City. In addition to working on recent collections from the Lower Congo River, the Likouala aux Herbes, and the Lekoli River Victor worked together with Melanie Stiassny on a manuscript entitled "Micralestes (Teleostei, Alestidae) of the Lower Congo River, with a description of a new species endemic to the Lower Congo River rapids in the Democratic Republic of Congo". The paper which includes a key to the Micralestes of the region, has been submitted to the journal Zootaxa. Victor returned to Brazzaville in March 2007, and he will be joining us on our next field trip in June-July 2007.
Raoul Monsembula l.t.r. Marcelo and Isabella Carvalho,Bob Schelly and Raoul Monsembula enjoying an event in the American Museum's Hall of Ocean Life"
Unversity of Kinshasa graduate student, Raoul Monsembula, spent the month of December, 2006 in the AMNH department of Ichthyology. Raoul and Bob Schelly worked on sorting and identifying their fish collection made in July, 2006 in the Salonga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo. Raoul further availed himself of the AMNH Library for important literature, learned collection curation techniques, and developed a hankering for Thai food. Raoul returned to Kinshasa early in 2007 and he will also be joining us on our next field trip in June-July 2007.
Under construction coming soon!
 


Papers and Presentations
News Publication Society for Conservation GIS presentation
Project participant and GIS specialist, Ned Gardiner, gave a presentation to the 9th Annual International Conference of the Society for Conservation GIS in San Jose, California in June, 2006. The presentation, which was co-authored by University of Georgia graduate student, Jason Ridgeway, Ian Harrison, Bob Schelly and Melanie Stiassny was entitled "Contextual Classification of channel elements of the Congo River using medium-resolution imagery". To learn more about Contextual Classification, or Object Oriented Analysis, of riverine habitats click on the link below and open the interactive video demonstration.
AMNH BioBulletins Congo Visualization.
Under construction coming soon!  

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