Titicaca orestias

Last updated

Titicaca orestias
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Cyprinodontiformes
Family: Cyprinodontidae
Genus: Orestias
O. cuvieri
Binomial name
Orestias cuvieri

Orestias humboldi [2]

The Titicaca orestias, Lake Titicaca orestias, or Lake Titicaca flat-headed fish (Orestias cuvieri), also known by its native name amanto, is a likely extinct freshwater killifish from Lake Titicaca in South America. It belongs in the pupfish genus Orestias , endemic to lakes, rivers and streams in the Andean highlands. With a total length of up to 27 cm (10.6 in), it was the largest member in that genus. In the hope that an undiscovered population remains, it is listed as Data Deficient by the IUCN. Despite its common name, it is not the only Orestias from Lake Titicaca.


Its mouth was nearly turned upwards, thereby giving the flat head a concave shape. The head took up nearly a third of the whole body length. The upperside was greenish-yellow to umber. The lower jaw was black. Its scales were oddly light coloured at their centre. The scales of the young were blotched.

The Titicaca orestias became extinct due to competition by introduced trout like the lake trout, brown trout, or the rainbow trout as well as Argentinian silverside from the 1930s to the 1950s. A survey in 1962 failed to find any Titicaca orestias.


Orestias cuvieri is a species of killfish that belongs in the genus Orestias . Other related species of Orestias live in the region, forming a species flock. [3]


The Titicaca orestias was characterized by a unique pattern of pores on the head. Large thick scales lined the median dorsal ridge and thinner smaller scales surrounded the ridge. Between these two areas of skin were patches with no scales. Unlike most other species of Orestias, the scales of the adult O. cuvieri were granulated. [3] The concave dish shape of its body and jaw further helped distinguish O. cuvieri from other species of Orestias. The anatomy of O. cuvieri closely resembled a species of trout which is now found in Lake Titicaca, a similarity which has led many researchers to hypothesize that competition between the two groups was the reason for the extinction of O. cuvieri. [3]


Each species of Orestias has varying size. The Titicaca orestias was the largest species in the genus. [4] The maximum recorded size is 22 cm (8.7 in) in standard length and 27 cm (10.6 in) in total length, which is considerably larger than most other species; only O. pentlandii at up to 20 cm (7.9 in) and 23.5 cm (9.3 in), respectively, comes close. [3] [5] [6]

Coloration and markings

With regard to the coloration of the amanto during their lifetime, specimens present black melanophores laterally as a band on the lateral line and as small groups on the upper lateral sides. Small melanophores cover the fins giving them a grayish color. The grayish color fades to white on the dorsum and belly; juvenile pigmentation pattern persists with little modification in adult males and females. [4] This information shows that the color of the Orestias in question depends on what part of the body is being considered.

Life history


Nothing has been published about the reproduction of the Titicaca orestias, but in other Orestias species of Lake Titicaca, the males become more orange or yellow in color when they are spawning. During their reproductive stage, the females lay somewhere between 50 and 400 eggs, each of which has a yellowish filament up to about 2.5 mm in diameter. As an adaptation to solar radiation, the eggs develop a black protective coat, derived from melanophores, around the embryo sac. [4]


Range and habitat

The freshwater fish belonging to the genus Orestias are found in high-altitude isolated lakes in the Altiplano region of South America, ranging from Peru to Chile. Lake Titicaca, which is on the border of Peru and Bolivia, contains a wide variety of Orestias fish. [7] This large lake was once the home to Orestias cuvieri before their extinction.

At one time, there were as many as 30 native fish species in Lake Titicaca, of which 28 species belonged to the genus Orestias. In the middle of the 20th century, there were many attempts to introduce exotic species to the lake. Two of these introductions were successful: rainbow trout introduced in 1942 and silverside ( Odontesthes bonariensis ) in the early 1950s. The success of the silverside meant the decline of the Titicaca orestias, since the larger silversides were observed to eat them. As long as the silverside continued to flourish, it meant difficult times for the amanto. Fifty years ago, there was no sign of Orestias cuvieri in Lake Titicaca and the species was presumed to be extinct.


O. cuvieri mainly ate smaller fish. [4]

Human interaction

Since the Miocene era, species of Orestias have lived in relative isolation. Most of the aquatic regions in the Altiplano region are endorheic, meaning that they are closed off from drainage and do not let any water out. [7] Thus, species of Orestias have been confined to their respective basins. Each group of fish is specifically adapted to the unique basin in which it lives and any alteration to the dynamics of the body of water would greatly impact the fish. Human introduction of foreign fishes to the Altiplano basins predictably had negative consequences. The alien species created competition and preyed upon Orestias cuvieri, eventually leading to its extinction. [8]

Pollutants contaminate the water and traces of metals, such as zinc and copper, have been found in the tissues of fishes. In addition, runoff from fertilizers and pesticides used in agricultural lands has been extremely toxic to the fish. The water from the Altiplano region is also in high demand. People have constantly been taking water out of the basins and depleting the Orestias' habitats. [8] The compilation of the effects of human actions have harmfully affected the health and survival of different species of Orestias, in particular the species O. cuvieri. Thus, the extinction of the Titicaca orestias is largely anthropogenic.


Law enforcement

With regard to law enforcement, major efforts are still needed to prevent pollution and illegal fishing. These efforts need to be made specifically on the area, between Peru and Bolivia, of Lake Titicaca. O cuvieri has likely already become extinct. Other native species, including the suche ( Trichomycterus rivulatus ), boga ( O. pentlandii ), yellow karachi ( O. albus ) and ispi ( O. ispi ), are threatened to various degrees, as a result of overfishing, predation by introduced species, and the impacts of intensive production in trout farms. [9] This idea of law enforcement is particularly challenging because of the immense body of water that would need patrolling. Actions to be on the lookout for by law enforcement should include long casting; where a long line (over 100 kilometers in some instances) is cast and other unintended fish are caught. Perhaps more importantly though is to be on the lookout, as an entity of law enforcement for pollution.

Museum specimens

The National Museum of Natural History in the Netherlands, Naturalis, has several specimens. Two of these specimens were donated by the Zoological Museum at Heidelberg University in 1877 and one in 1880 from the Smithsonian Institution. In addition, four specimens, labeled "Orestias humboldi" were donated by the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle in France. [2]

Scientists have determined that there are 43 species of the genus Orestias. These species were divided into four groups by the American ichthyologist Lynne R. Parenti in 1984. In 2003, Arne Lüssen researched the phylogeny, including the mtDNA sequence data of many species. The Lake Titicaca orestias, O. culvieri, is a member of the cuvieri species complex, which also includes O. forgeti , O. ispi and O. pentlandii. [2]

Related Research Articles

Trout Number of species of freshwater fish

Trout are species of freshwater fish belonging to the genera Oncorhynchus, Salmo and Salvelinus, all of the subfamily Salmoninae of the family Salmonidae. The word trout is also used as part of the name of some non-salmonid fish such as Cynoscion nebulosus, the spotted seatrout or speckled trout.

Lake Titicaca Freshwater lake in Peru

Lake Titicaca is a large, deep, freshwater lake in the Andes on the border of Bolivia and Peru, often called the "highest navigable lake" in the world. By volume of water and by surface area, it is the largest lake in South America.

Killifish Any of various oviparous cyprinodontiform fish

A killifish is any of various oviparous (egg-laying) cyprinodontiform fish. All together, there are 1,270 species of killifish, the biggest family being Rivulidae, containing more than 320 species. As an adaptation to living in ephemeral waters, the eggs of most killifish can survive periods of partial dehydration. Many of the species rely on such a diapause, since the eggs would not survive more than a few weeks if entirely submerged in water. The adults of some species, such as Kryptolebias marmoratus, can additionally survive out of the water for several weeks. Most killies are small fish, from 2.5 to 5 cm, with the largest species growing to just under 15 cm.

Lake Poopó

Lake Poopó was a large saline lake in a shallow depression in the Altiplano Mountains in Oruro Department, Bolivia, at an altitude of approximately 3,700 m (12,100 ft). Because the lake was long and wide, it made up the eastern half of the department, known as a mining region in southwest Bolivia. The permanent part of the lake body covered approximately 1,000 square kilometres (390 sq mi) and it was the second-largest lake in the country. The lake received most of its water from the Desaguadero River, which flows from Lake Titicaca at the north end of the Altiplano. Since the lake lacked any major outlet and had a mean depth of less than 3 m (10 ft), the surface area differed greatly seasonally.

Uru people

The Uru or Uros are an indigenous people of Peru and Bolivia. They live on an approximate and still growing 120 self-fashioned floating islands in Lake Titicaca near Puno. They form three main groups: the Uru-Chipaya, Uru-Murato, and Uru-Iruito. The Uru-Iruito still inhabit the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca and the Desaguadero River.

Pupfish Family of fishes

Pupfish are a group of small killifish belonging to ten genera of the family Cyprinodontidae of ray-finned fish. Pupfish are especially noted for being found in extreme and isolated situations. They are primarily found in North America, South America, and the Caribbean region, but Aphanius species are from southwestern Asia, northern Africa, and southern Europe. As of August 2006, 120 nominal species and 9 subspecies were known. Several pupfish species are extinct and most extant species are listed. In the U.S., the most well-known pupfish species may be the Devil's Hole Desert Pupfish, native to Devil's Hole on the Nevada side of Death Valley National Park. Since 1995 the Devil's Hole Pupfish has been in a nearly steady decline, where it was close to extinction at 35–68 fish in 2013.

Titicaca grebe Species of bird

The Titicaca grebe, also known as the Titicaca flightless grebe or short-winged grebe, is a grebe found on the altiplano of Peru and Bolivia. As its name implies, its main population occurs on Lake Titicaca. Lake Uru Uru and Poopó, the Rio Desaguadero, and small lakes that connect to Lake Titicaca in wet years, serve as "spillovers" territory. In the past, the population was larger and several of these lakes – such as Lakes Umayo and Arapa – apparently had and may still have permanent large colonies. It is sometimes placed in Podiceps or a monotypic genus Centropelma. Its local name is zampullín del Titicaca.

<i>Orestias</i> (fish) Genus of fishes

Orestias is a genus of pupfish. Older systematics classified them into the own family Orestiidae. They are found in lakes, rivers and springs in the Andean highlands of South America, and several species are considered threatened. They are egg-laying fish that feed on small animals and plant matter. The largest species can reach a total length of 27 cm (10.6 in), but most remain far smaller. Their most characteristic feature is the absence of the ventral fin, although this is shared by a few other pupfish. Despite their moderate to small size, they are important to local fisheries and a few species are farmed.

Fauna of the Andes

The fauna of the Andes, a mountain range in South America, is large and diverse. As well as a huge variety of flora, the Andes contain many different animal species.

<i>Telmatobius culeus</i> Species of amphibian

Telmatobius culeus, commonly known as the Titicaca water frog, is a medium-large to very large and endangered species of frog in the family Telmatobiidae. It is entirely aquatic and only found in the Lake Titicaca basin, including rivers that flow into it and smaller connected lakes like Arapa, Lagunillas and Saracocha, in the Andean highlands of Bolivia and Peru. In reference to its excessive amounts of skin, it has jokingly been referred to as the Titicaca scrotum (water) frog.

Laguna Hedionda (Nor Lípez)

Laguna Hedionda is a saline lake in the Nor Lípez Province, Potosí Department in Bolivia. It is notable for various migratory species of pink and white flamingos.

Lake Saracocha Lake in Puno, Peru

Lake Saracocha is a lake in the Cabanillas District, Puno Region, southeastern Peru. Lake Saracocha is located just southeast of Lake Lagunillas. These two Andean highland lakes are part of the system drained by the Coata River, which flows in a generally easterly direction until entering westernmost Lake Titicaca, about 50 km (30 mi) from Lake Saracocha as the crow flies.

<i>Cimoliopterus</i> Genus of pteranodontoid pterosaur from the Cretaceous period

Cimoliopterus is a genus of pterosaur that lived during the Late Cretaceous in what is now England and the United States. The first known specimen, consisting of the front part of a snout including part of a crest, was discovered in the Grey Chalk Subgroup of Kent, England, and described as the new species Pterodactylus cuvieri in 1851. The specific name cuvieri honours the palaeontologist George Cuvier, whereas the genus Pterodactylus was then used for many pterosaur species that are not thought to be closely related today. It was one of the first pterosaurs to be depicted as models in Crystal Palace Park in the 1850s. The species was subsequently assigned to various other genera, including Ornithocheirus and Anhanguera. In 2013, the species was moved to a new genus, as Cimoliopterus cuvieri; the generic name Cimoliopterus is derived from the Greek words for "chalk" and "wing". Other specimens and species have also been assigned to or synonymised with the species with various levels of certainty. In 2015, a snout discovered in the Britton Formation of Texas, US, was named as a new species in the genus, C. dunni; the specific name honours its collector, Brent Dunn.

Lake Minchin

Lake Minchin is a name of an ancient lake in the Altiplano of South America. It existed where today the Salar de Uyuni, Salar de Coipasa and Lake Poopó lie. It was formerly considered the highest lake in the Altiplano but research indicated that the highest shoreline belongs to the later Lake Tauca instead.

Lake Tauca Former lake in Bolivia, parts of it extended into Chile

Lake Tauca is a former lake in the Altiplano of Bolivia. It is also known as Lake Pocoyu for its constituent lakes: Lake Poopó, Salar de Coipasa and Salar de Uyuni. The lake covered large parts of the southern Altiplano between the Eastern Cordillera and the Western Cordillera, covering an estimated 48,000 to 80,000 square kilometres of the basins of present-day Lake Poopó and the Salars of Uyuni, Coipasa and adjacent basins. Water levels varied, possibly reaching 3,800 metres (12,500 ft) in altitude. The lake was saline. The lake received water from Lake Titicaca, but whether this contributed most of Tauca's water or only a small amount is controversial; the quantity was sufficient to influence the local climate and depress the underlying terrain with its weight. Diatoms, plants and animals developed in the lake, sometimes forming reef knolls.

Lake Mataro is an ancient lake in the Andes. It formed over the northern Altiplano at an altitude of 3,950 metres (12,960 ft) and extended over the central Altiplano. It is one of the ancient lakes of the Altiplano like Lake Minchin, Lake Ballivian and Lake Cabana. It existed between 2.8 and 1.8 million years ago.

Lake Ballivián is an ancient lake in the Altiplano of South America and is named after the Bolivian scholar Don Manuel Vicente Ballivian. It is part of a series of lakes which developed in the Titicaca basin along with Lake Mataro and Lake Cabana, reaching an altitude of 3,860 metres (12,660 ft). Lake Ballivián itself is of late Quaternary age and may have influenced the spread and development of animals in the Altiplano. In the southern Altiplano, Lake Escara may be coeval with Lake Ballivián.

<i>Odontesthes bonariensis</i> Species of fish

Odontesthes bonariensis is a species of Neotropical silverside, an euryhaline fish native to fresh, brackish and salt water in south-central and southeastern South America, but also introduced elsewhere. It is often known by the common name Argentinian silverside or pejerrey, but it is not the only species of silverside in Argentina and pejerrey is also used for many other silversides. It is a commercially important species and the target of major fisheries.

Chungará Lake Lake situated in the Lauca National Park, Chile

Chungará is a lake situated in the extreme north of Chile at an elevation of 4,517 metres (14,820 ft), in the Altiplano of Arica y Parinacota Region in the Lauca National Park. It has a surface area of about 21.5–22.5 square kilometres (8.3–8.7 sq mi) and has a maximum depth of about 26–40 metres (85–131 ft). It receives inflow through the Río Chungara with some minor additional inflows, and loses most of its water to evaporation; seepage into the Laguna Quta Qutani plays a minor role.

The Lake Afdera killifish is a fish belonging to the family Cyprinodontidae. It is found in Lake Afdera in Ethiopia. The species was evaluated by the IUCN on 1 May 2009 and listed as endangered on the Red List.


  1. World Conservation Monitoring Centre (1996). "Orestias cuvieri". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . 1996: e.T15491A4665163. doi: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.1996.RLTS.T15491A4665163.en . Retrieved 20 November 2021.
  2. 1 2 3 "Orestias cuvieri". 2007. Archived from the original on 2008-04-07. Retrieved 2013-10-27.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Parenti, Lynne R. (1984). "A taxonomic revision of the Andean killifish genus Orestias (Cyprinodontiformes, Cyprinodontidae)". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 178: 107–214. hdl:2246/575.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Vila, Irma; Pardo, Rodrigo & Scott, Sergio (2007). "Freshwater fishes of the Altiplano". Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management. 10 (2): 201–211. doi:10.1080/14634980701351395.
  5. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2017). "Orestias cuvieri" in FishBase . February 2017 version.
  6. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2018). Species of Orestias in FishBase . March 2018 version.
  7. 1 2 Jara, Fernando; Soto, Doris & Palma, Rodrigo (1995). "Reproduction in captivity of the endangered killifish Orestias ascotanensis (Teleostei: Cyprinodontidae)". Copeia. 1995 (1): 226–228. doi:10.2307/1446821. JSTOR   1446821.
  8. 1 2 Anderson, Elizabeth P. & Maldonado-Ocampo, Javier A. (2010). "A regional perspective on the diversity and conservation of tropical Andean fishes". Conservation Biology. 25 (1): 30–39. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2010.01568.x. PMID   20735451.
  9. Chavez, Franz. 2011. Major Efforts Still Needed to Clean Up Lake Titicaca. News International. Global Reach Press.