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Gamefish of the Amazon Basin

Amazon Gamefish Encyclopedia: A compendium of scientific and angling information for the fisherman - to help you better understand your quarry.

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Geohistory and Taxonomic Background Information

The Amazon basin and its surrounding drainage is home to over 3000 freshwater fish species, almost a third of all the freshwater fish species that exist in the entire world. The aquarium trade has long found some of its most beautiful, interesting and exotic specimens here. This extraordinary aquatic biodiversity has also created the richest freshwater sport fishery in existence. What the aquarist has long known, the sportfisherman is just now discovering. The adventurous angler will find no harder fighting or more exciting gamefish anywhere in the world.

Amazonian fish species evolved from an ancient line of groups that were already established over 200 million years ago. The most commonly accepted theory regarding these Amazon species is that their precursors evolved during a period when what is now South America, Africa, southern Asia and Australia were a single continent called Gondwanaland. Upon the separation of these continents, these mutual ancestors then evolved independently. Today, although the history of this relationship between the Amazonian, African and Australian fishes remains evident, their modern descendents have speciated into thousands of endemic varieties.

The majority of Amazonian gamefish belong to three large groups (Orders): the Siluriformes (catfishes); the Characiformes, (characins, including dorado, payara and pirapitinga) and the Perciformes, including the Cichlids and the king of all freshwater gamefish, the peacock bass. Several fish families from other orders also contribute to the Amazon's gamefish variety such as the osteoglossidae (the aruana and the immense pirarucú or arapaima), as well as groups with salt-water origins such as the sardinata (apapá), and the pescada (corvina), a freshwater drum.

The list of Amazonian freshwater gamefish is as extensive and exotic as the land itself. Depending upon the region, there are as many as twenty different species that will take a fly or lure - often with strange names and peculiar appearances to match their fighting prowess.

The Amazon Basin

Amazon Map
Fish Classification

The freshwater Amazonian gamefishes in this article, as organized by ichthyologists, are all members of the Class Osteichthyes or bony fishes. This group includes all fishes that have evolved in freshwater as well as the majority of saltwater species. Fishes of similar anatomical characteristics within this differentiation, are grouped in Orders. Within each order, closely related fishes are further subdivided into Families. The two-part scientific name then specifies the even finer separation into Genus and individual Species.

Important Amazon Fish Orders






Definition: A hypothetical supercontinent made up of South America, Africa, Australia, Antarctica and the Indian subcontinent. Presumed to have existed from 300 to 200 million years ago until separated by continental drift.

History: In 1912 a German scientist, Alfred Wegener, was the first person to put forth the concept that the continents were joined at one time in the geologic past. He postulated a single great landmass, Pangaea. Later theorists describe the separation, late in the Triassic Period (245 to 208 million years ago), between the southern landmass, Gondwanaland, and Laurasia to the north.

Significant geologic, paleobiological and current biological evidence for the land connection between the currently separated southern continents exists. Some examples include the occurrence of tillites (glacial deposits) from the time between the Carboniferous and Permian periods, and the existence of similar and unique floras and faunas that are not found in the Northern Hemisphere. Rock strata containing this matching evidence are found in the Karroo System in South Africa, the Gondwana System in India, and the Santa Catharina System in South America.

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