Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 98, Issue 8, pp 1913–1926 | Cite as

First observations on annual massive upstream migration of juvenile catfish Trichomycterus in an Amazonian River

  • Guido Miranda-ChumaceroEmail author
  • Gustavo Álvarez
  • Valentín Luna
  • Robert B. Wallace
  • Lilian Painter


Following flooding peaks in the Beni River, a massive upstream migration event involving juvenile pencil catfish (Trichomycterus barbouri) or chipi chipi is described for the first time. The annual migration begins in the floodplains of the Beni River, where enormous schools of juveniles form to travel upstream through the straits of the last foothills of the Andes into Andean foothill forest streams and rivers. Observations and local knowledge suggest a migration distance of at least 370 km over an average of 32 days in February and March with an average speed of 12 km/day. The migrating juveniles weigh less than 0.38 g and measure less than 33 mm in standard length. As such, considering body length and body weight to distance travelled ratios they are one have one of the greatest migration efforts of any freshwater fish. Local people harvest juveniles across the migration route, but especially in Rurrenabaque, where they are considered a seasonal dish. This scientific revelation highlights the Amazon as a place where natural phenomena are still being discovered, described and documented in an era when hydroelectric infrastructure threatens the ecology of many aquatic ecosystems.


Migration route Migration description Pencil catfish Juveniles Foothills Bolivia 



The Wildlife Conservation Society through the Greater Madidi Landscape Conservation Program funded this research. We extend our particular thanks to the network of voluntary observers in local communities, without whose interest, curiosity and responsibility this work would not have been possible: Juan “Tonchi” González (Carmen del Emero), Eduardo Cabinas (Cachichira), Crisanto Serato (Copacabana), Constantino Nay (San Miguel), Juan “Masaco” Buchapi and Eddy Ocampo (Rurrenabaque). Fieldwork was also greatly assisted by Gober Serato and Eddy Ocampo and family. We would also like to thank Julio Pinto and Rubén Marín of the Institute of Ecology and Limnology Department for their constant support in the execution of this study and their collaboration for our research was conducted with the correspondent approval of the Biodiversity Authorities (MMAyA-VMABCCGDF-DGBAP - N° 354/2014. Luis Fernández, Luis Pacheco, two anonymous revisers and the editor made valuable suggestions of this manuscript for which we are extremely grateful. This work is dedicated to the Tacana people, in whose territory this phenomenon occurs along with others yet to discover.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guido Miranda-Chumacero
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gustavo Álvarez
    • 1
  • Valentín Luna
    • 2
  • Robert B. Wallace
    • 1
  • Lilian Painter
    • 1
  1. 1.Wildlife Conservation Society, Greater Madidi Tambopata Landscape Conservation ProgramLa PazBolivia
  2. 2.Comunidad de San MiguelTCO TacanaLa PazBolivia

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