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The Angler's Guide to Payara

A guide to the different species known as payara, their taxonomy, biology & how to catch them.

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Amazon Payara Taxonomy

Payara Classification Overview

Taxonomic Grouping Latin Descriptor English Translation
Kingdom Animalia animals
Phylum Chordata with spinal cords
Subphylum Vertebrata with back bones
Superclass Gnathostoma jawed vertebrates
Grade Osteichthes bony fishes
Class Actinopterygii ray-finned fishes
Division Teleostei completed bones
Subdivision Ostarioclupeiomorpha bone-shield-form
Superorder Ostariophysi bone-bladder
Series Otophysi ear-bladder
Order Characiformes Characins

Payara belong to the order Characiformes.

Together with the Catfishes (Order Siluriformes), the Characins account for almost 90% of the fish species diversity of the Amazon. And diverse is exactly what they are, both morphologically and ecologically. They range in size from minuscule 13mm long tetras to 80 pound plus tambaqui and meter long payara and trairao (wolfish). They range in shape from some of the roundest fish in the world to some of the most elongated. They include the curimatidae, bottom favoring detritus feeders with no teeth at all; to the piranhas, whose teeth we're all well aware of. They include a range of demeanors from some of the mildest mannered community dwellers and aquarium favorites to some of the fiercest and most exciting gamefish in the world.

Payara belong to the family Cynodontidae
Cynodontidae Psuedopimelodidae - Catfish Highlighted by the fantastic payara, this family is readily recognized by their oblique mouths, exaggerated canines and their well-developed pectoral fins. Several species are encountered by anglers. Within the genus Hydrolicus, anglers pursue the giant payara (H. armatus) primarily in fast-moving rivers. Anglers may also encounter the smaller H. scomberoides in lowlands rivers. Both are known as pirandira in Brazil. The more elongate and more widely distributed Rhaphiodon vulpinus is also sought by anglers. Called biara or chafalote, they provide excellent sport on light tackle.
Cynodontidae Subfamilies
Cynodontinae This subfamily of 8 species includes the genera Cynodon, Hydrolycus and Rhapiodon. These include the largest species and possess the longest canines of the family.
Roestinae This subfamily of 6 species includes the genera Gilbertolus and Roestes.

Preserved specimens photographed at INPA (National Institute of Amazon Research), Manaus, Brazil


Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2009. FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org, version (06/2009).

Géry, J. 1977. Characoids of the world. Tropical Fish Hobbyist Publications, Inc., Neptune City, NJ.

Mattox, G. M. T, Toledo-Piza, M., Oyakawa, O. T. and Armbruster, J. W., Taxonomic Study of Hoplias Aimara (Valenciennes, 1846) and Hoplias macrophthalmus (Pellegrin, 1907) (Ostariophysi, Characiformes, Erythrinidae), Copeia, 2006, 3, 516-528.

Nelson J, (2006) Fishes of the World. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Hoboken, New Jersey, USA

Reis, R. E., S.O. Kullander, and C. J. Ferraris, Jr. (eds.) 2003. Check List of the Freshwater Fishes of South and Central America. Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, RS. Brasil. 620-621.

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