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Extremophile 'toxic' fish feature in Scientific American

Posted on 26/04/2017

Dr Riesch working in the field

Popular science magazine, Scientific American has included a fascinating feature from Royal Holloway’s School of Biological Sciences that explores specially adapted fish that brave toxic sulphur springs.

Dr Rudiger Riesch’s work was bought to life in its April issue, available now. ‘Evolution at the Limits’ describes the survival of several species in the family of poeciliid fishes, which have managed to colonise creeks and rivers containing toxic levels of hydrogen sulfide. The fish share traits such as a large head and big offspring that aid survival in their deadly environment.

Dr Riesch took the opportunity to bring his fieldwork to life, writing:

On a September afternoon in Tabasco in southern Mexico, we made our way through the rain forest toward the sound of flowing water, in pursuit of a small but important fish. Iridescent blue morpho butterflies flitted by, and howler monkeys roared from the trees overhead, offering welcome distractions from the broiling heat and humidity.
Soon we spotted a green kingfisher diving into the nearby creek and then returning to its perch to consume its catch. The bird had nabbed the same kind of fish we were after: an Atlantic molly (Poecilia mexicana), a member of a family of fishes called poeciliids, whose females give birth to live young and whose males have flashy colors that make them popular among aquarists around the world.

Read about his experiences and research into these fearless fish in the article.

Rüdiger Riesch is a lecturer in evolutionary biology at Royal Holloway, University of London. His research focuses on the mechanisms that create, maintain and constrain biodiversity.

Delve further into his work on his website, or learn more about the School of Biological Sciences and how to apply.



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