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Meta 2014

Meta 2014

On the eastern side of the Andes in Colombia’s Meta department lies an ancient mountain range called the Serrania de La Macarena. This mysterious and isolated tabletop mountain protrudes out of the Llanos lowlands, which formed in the Cretaceous at a time when the Amazon flowed westwards into the Pacific and the Andes did not yet exist.

When the Pacific and South American Continental plates collided and the Andes were shaped, the flow of the Amazon literally reversed and most of the Guyana highlands eroded away. West of the Orinoco, only the Macarena now remains, isolated from the tabletop mountains of the Guyanas and distanced only by a few kilometers from the Andes.

This kind of isolation consequently generates new species. A classic example of Wallace’s island theory, the Macarena is full of endemic plants and animals. Although designated as a national park since the 1950s, the Macarena has been a zone of conflict since that time. Fifty years of Colombian civil war has left the region as one of the most unsafe in the country. FARC guerrillas controlled much of the region in the past years, and still control a large part of the area today.

In 2009, I visited the town of San Juan de Arama (along with a ground offensive of 2,500 Special Forces troops of the Colombian military) and spent some days in the southernmost town of La Macarena to visit the most spectacular river in the region. The road from San Juan de Arama to La Macarena was off limits because it is too dangerous.

In 2014, ongoing peace talks and special permissions from both the military and the FARC allowed a team of researchers from Bogota and Austria to visit and observe the rivers in the forbidden sector of the Macarena. The spectacular landscapes and large number of rare species made for an unforgettable trip. I would like to share some of these highlights with you now.

While our 2013 Fluval Colombia expedition aimed to bring you closer to the habitats of the fish in your aquariums, this expedition will take you to unknown places in the hope of finding new fish, unknown to science, and not yet kept in the aquarium hobby. I have included some photos from friends at the University of Vienna, Austria, namely, Dr. Anton Lamboj, an Iichthyologist, and Michael Seiter, a Biologist specialized in scorpions and spiders.

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Northern sector of the Serrania de La Macarena
The upper Rio Guejar inside the national park
Cyriocosmos cf.leetzi, a colourful small tarantula species
Vehicles loaded for takeoff
Farmhouse used as a base for our expedition
A domesticated macaw
Farmhouse used as a base for our expedition
In the shallow stream below the farm, a large seine net is ideal for catching fish
Opisthacanthus scorpion
A deadly venomous wandering spider, Phoneutria fera cf., found next to the toothbrush
The Cano Cristales is known as “The Liquid Rainbow” because of its striking colors
Macarenia clavigera, the endemic Cano Cristales river weed
Male Ap.alacrina in the photo tank
Male displaying and female with babies
Cichlasoma metae guarding huge clouds of their young
Freshly-caught splashing tetra, Copeina steindachneri
Rivulus from the shallowest areas of the river
Podocnemis voglii, the Llanos river turtle
The entrance to the Guayabero canyon
Sorubim and Hemisorubim shovelnose catfishes from the Guayabero
Black water pools in the Cano Canoas
Astroblepus spec.nov
Crenicichla cf.anthurus
Juvenile piranha
Bujurquina spec.nov.
Corydoras axelrodi
Freshwater shrimp
A look up and down the stream of the Cano Sardinata
In the dry season the road is difficult, in the rainy season it will become near impassible
Waterfall at the top of the Cano Canoas
Like Tarantulas and other spiders, the Olios was living in one of the houses
A look up and down the stream of the Cano Sardinata
The stream of the Cano Sardinata
Chaetostoma spec.nov.
Charax spec.nov.
Cordylancistrus spec.nov.
Creagrutus spec.nov.
Astyanax metae
Small cast net for catching plecos
Electrofishing gear, fish close to the emitter are temporarily stunned and caught
Chaetostoma spec.
Cetopsorhamdia spec.
Cetopsorhamdia spec.
Lasiancistrus spec.
Pseudopimelodus cf.raninus
Astyanax cf. bimaculatus
Salminus affinis is the largest predator in the habitat
Rickety cable cars are used to cross people and cargo over the rapids of rivers
Genicanthus, a harmless but impressive whip spider

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