The Mangrove Killifish

Latest update May 3, 2019 Started on January 20, 2019

The main goal of this expedition is to disentangling the distribution of the mangrove amphibious killifish, amazing and tiny estuarine fish that live in magrove forest pools. Our focus now is in the mouth of the Amazon river.

January 20, 2019
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In The Field

Things that happen in the Amazon

During our way back to Belém after our last expedition, I saw this curious situation. It is something that happens a lot in boat trips along the Amazon, but we do not usually have the chance do document. So there is a short vision on that.

The boats do not stop in every riverine village along the travels. So, sometimes, the owners of shops of these villages have to approach the boats to pick up supplies.

It was also a nice chance to practice some skills about video production I have learned during the National Geographic Sciencetelling Bootcamp, in Mexico City, last February. It is not the best, but it is something, right?! Hope you enjoy!

The Mangrove Killifish Team

Átila Dantas Escóssia de Melo

Master in Ecology, Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil

We got a Trident!

I'm very excited with this news! We got a Trident to do our explorations in Brazilian mangroves. Thank you to S.E.E. Initiative, Sofar Ocean and National Geographic. A new era of explorations is coming! Looking forward for receiving our OpenROV Trident.

Congrats! Can't wait to see some of the footage you get.

The Mangrove Killifish Team

Ana Beatriz Bennemann

Undergraduate student in Biology, Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil

The Mangrove Killifish Team

Waldir Miron Berbel-Filho

Evolutionary biologist, PhD Candidate at Swansea University

Macapá is the capital of Amapá state, in Northern Brazil. The 400-towsend people town is located on the Northern bank of the Amazon river and the Equator line divide the city in two. Here, I'm posing at the "Marco Zero" monument: on the right is the South hemisphere, on the left the North.

tab Me and Mateus holding the NatGeo flag at the Marco Zero monument

tab Our first day in Macapá, the Amapá Capital, was dedicated to provide all the logistics to the field. The Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), the institution responsible for managing protected areas in Brazil, gave us all the support and information we need to get to the field and to do the work. Here, we sit with Thais, a highly efficient ICMBio collaborator, who gave us many tips on fieldwork condition in Amapá and arranged all the team to go to the field with us.

tab This is Raimundo Nonato, a fish ecologist, an old friend and the guy who made all the contacts with the ICMBio staff before we arrive in Macapá.

tab Maracá Island: our destination! We were looking for a pristine place in Northern Brazilian Coast were we could sample the Mangrove Killifish both in Islands and in the continent, in a paired way. The Maracá Island, a 20-km long coastal island was a perfect scenario. It is a 58.000-ha sedimentary island close to the coast of Amapá state, composed by large areas (70%) of inundated fields (locally called "campos") and 30% of mangrove forests (locally called "mangais" or "manguezais"). Since 1981, the entire island was decreed as a Federal and restricted-use protected area, the Maracá-Jipioca Ecological Station. Since then, Maracá island is only visited by students and researchers, interested on the beauties and the incredible biodiversity it holds. It is mainly known by having one of the higher density of jaguars on Earth, what gave it regionally the nickname of "Ilha das Onças" (Jaguar island). To get there, we need a vessel and all the related supplies. We will come back soon. Keep following...

Our team is already in Amapá State, on the way to the mangroves look for the amphibious killifish. Watch the preparation and the messages from the other team members.

Watch the video


Just applied to the S.E.E. Initiative, aiming to acquire a Trident OpenROV, an incredible aquatic drone for underwater explorations.
alt In our project we intend to use the Trident for understanding what happens underwater in the mangrove intertidal forest during the high tide. We study fish in mangrove pools, but currently we can only explore it during the low tides, when water recedes and we can look for fish in isolated pools. altBut we want to go further and to understand what happens during the moments when the water gains the forest. Who are the animals that use this temporary habitat? What are the interactions that defines who is where in such a stressful environment? How many incredible images could we produce of the amazing world of the underwater mangroves?! We are looking forward for it!


Between 15 and 20 March I have been in Mexico City attending to the National Geographic Explorers Festival. During these days, me and other 25 NatGeo Explorers from Latin America, had a strong training on Sciencetelling, with classes and assignments on leadership, storytelling, photography and videography. At the end of the event, during the Explorer Spotlight, we presented a little of our projects to an excited audience.

I am very proud of our Latin American Explorers and so happy to have had such opportunity. The training certainly will help me to think better the kind of visual material I should acquire during my Open Explorer Expedition and to construct beautiful stories about the science I am doing. Thanks NatGeo, NatGeo Partners and all the Explorers for such great days!

Now, the preparation for the fieldwork restarts! In April we are heading to Amapá State, the North bank of the Amazon river, to figure out "what is there, beyond The Big River". Let's Go Further!!

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The Festival looked incredible! Glad you found the Sciencetelling material helpful. I think that team does a great job with training.
Hi, Madeleine. Yes, for sure the training was great! For sure me and the other explorers went back home highly motivated.

At the end of January 2019 we have made our first incursion into the mouth of the Amazon river. It was a short expedition with the aim of recognizing the environment, do some training on the students and to start to look for killifish in the Marajó Island, where no record has yet been made for the species. We crossed the Marajó bay by ferry-boat and explored by car the South-Easthern portion of the island looking for the mangrove killifish. This time of the year is the rainy season in this portion of the Amazon. Even being already in contact with the Atlantic Ocean, most of the water along the Marajó island coast was freshwater. It was very hard to find the mangrove killifish. Even in habitats that fit most to the ones where the species occur in other regions of Brazil, we had hard times to find the guys. After many attempts, we caught a few individuals that could be our fish, but we still need more time in lab and with genetics for having an accurate classification. Stay connected! Soon we will have news about it!

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Expedition Background

The mangrove killifishes are small-sized fishes that spend great time of their life in temporary pools of mangrove forests. Other part of their life they spend outside of the water. Yes, that is true! The mangrove killifish are animals with great capacity to use the terrestrial environment, being for move between ponds or even to grab terrestrial food, as ants, termites or small crickets. Although some ecological data do exist regarding the species from North America and the Caribbean islands, little is known about fish from Brazil, a new described species under conservation threatens.

The Mangrove Killifish Expedition will start in the Marajó Island, in Pará State, Brazil, and follow up until the North bank of the Amazon River, in Amapá State. The main objectives of this expedition are to (i) provide a more insightful map of distribution of the mangrove killifishes; (2) understand the distribution of the main genetic groups of mangrove killifishes, something yet very confuse for science; and (3) generate data about the environmental attributes that affect the distribution and behavior of such an incredible group of fish.


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