Discover Life -- Shorefishes of the Tropical Eastern Pacific -- Introduction
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The tropical eastern Pacific (TEP)

We cover the marine biogeographic region known as the Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP), which encompasses the continental shoreline that extends south of Magdalena Bay along the outer coast of southern Baja California, through the southern and central Gulf of California, and down the continental coastline to Cabo Blanco in northern Peru. This region also includes five offshore islands and groups of islands - the Revillagigedos, Clipperton, Cocos, Malpelo and the Galapagos, as well as all or part of the Pacific coasts of 10 Central and South American countries: most of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, a small part of Honduras in the upper reaches of the Gulf of Fonseca, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, and northern Peru, as well as a tiny piece of French Polynesia in the form of Clipperton Island. The northern and southern continental limits of this region are defined by cold currents that flow from the poles along the continental coasts towards the equator and then move away from the coast towards the central Pacific at about these points. The northern Gulf of California also is a temperate environment with a fish fauna bearing strong affinities to the fauna of the temperate Californian Province. Here we do not include the northern Gulf because this work focuses on the tropical region and fauna. We cover species that occur in the central or southern Gulf as well as the northern Gulf but not species restricted to the northern Gulf, which, according to Walker (1960), represent about half the fish species present in that section of the Gulf.

Types of fishes included here

We include species that inhabit rocky and coral reefs and adjacent sand, rubble and weed habitats, members of coastal sand and mud-bottom communities, such as those frequented by shrimp trawlers and those found in river mouths and estuaries, pelagic families of interest to commercial and recreational fishermen, for example the tunas, mackerels and billfishes, and other oceanic fishes that are occasionally encountered with ~50km of the coastline. A few species that live primarily in freshwater but also are found in brackish water (as juveniles in some cases) are included. In this first edition of Shorefishes of the tropical eastern Pacific: an information system our coverage is restricted to fishes that occur in 100m or less of water along the coastline.

A short history of taxonomic studies of the region's shorefishes

There is a rich history of ichthological exploration in the tropical eastern Pacific dating back to Darwin's voyage to the Galapagos aboard the Beagle. Fishes from this expedition were described by Jenyns in 1842. Since that time a number of major works have been published, primarily by US authors. An extensive listing (about 1000 titles) of relevant material is presented in the library of this CD. Several are worth mentioning here, because of their considerable depth and overall contribution to our knowledge of the region's fish fauna. Jordan (1885) was the first to assemble a list of the TEP shorefishes. The four volume work of Jordan and Evermann (1896-1900), The Fishes of North and Middle America, presented an invaluable synopsis of the known fauna as it stood at the turn of the 20th century. This was a solid foundation upon which Jordan, his colleagues, and their students continued to build during the early part of the twentieth century. Charles H. Gilbert, a collaborator of Jordan's, also had a considerable impact. He made large collections in Mexico and Panama, and along with Edwin C. Starks (1904) produced The Fishes of Panama Bay. Other landmark publications were Meek and Hildebrand's (1923-1928) The Marine Fishes of Panama and Hildebrand's (1946) A Descriptive Catalog of the Shore Fishes of Peru.

Besides these larger works there exists a considerable taxonomic literature devoted to different components of the region's fish fauna. For the most part these consist of either new species descriptions or generic revisions. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) at La Jolla, California, the Los Angeles County Museum (Los Angeles, California) and the California Academy of Sciences (San Francisco, California) have earned reputations as leading center for studies on tropical eastern Pacific fishes. The reputation of SIO is largely a result of the work of the late Carl Hubbs, and Richard Rosenblatt and their many students. The Institute maintains a large collection of regional fishes and many important publications are based on this material. A catalog of the SIO collection recently became available online at LINK FAILS Both that and another catalog of a large collection of eastern Pacific fishes housed at the Los Angeles County museum can be accessed through FishBase online.

Major modern guides to the region's shorefishes

Until recently there was only one comprehensive illustrated guide that treated a large part of the tropical eastern Pacific's fish fauna: Reef Fishes of the Sea of Cortez, by Thomson et al. (1979), a revised edition of which was published in 2000. This book provides good coverage of the Gulf of California and served as a proxy for a regional guide for 15 years. Chirichigno's (1974) guide to the fishes of Peru (a revised edition was published in 1998): Clave para identifica los peces marinos del Perú, by Chirichigno and Vélez), also functioned partly as a regional guide for the TEP because about a third of the fauna we consider here occurs in northern Peru. Recently two truly regional guides were published: Fishes of the tropical eastern Pacific, by Allen and Robertson (1994), and the multi-authored 3 volume Guia para la indentificación de especies para los fines de la Pesca: Pacífico Centro-Oriental (1995), by FAO (the UN Food and Agriculture Organization). The FAO volumes are in spanish and a spanish edition of Allen and Robertson's book, Peces del Pacífico Oriental Tropical, was published in 1998. In addition Grove and Lavenberg released the long awaited Fishes of the Galápagos Islands in 1997, a book that comprehensively treats the entire fish fauna of that island group. Humann published a popular photographic guide to reef fishes of that archipelago, Reef fish identification: Galápagos, in 1993. Other guides with limited geographic coverage include Garrison's (2000) bilingual Los Peces de Isla del Coco and the spanish language Peces de la Isla Gorgona (1987, revised edition 2000) by E. Rubio et al. "Peces demersales y pelágicos costeros del Pacífico de Centro America Meridional: Guia Ilustrada" (1993) a bilingual guide by William A. Bussing and Myrna I. Lopez focuses on marine species trawled from soft bottoms off Costa Rica.

Other major resources that effectively cover the region's fishes, though not as a regional fauna, include William Eschmeyer's Catalog of Fishes, at, LINK FAILS which provides comprehensive up to date information on the systematics of fishes and FishBase [], which covers a variety of aspects of the biology of fishes.

SFTEP home Introduction Biology Ecology Zoogeography Features of the system How to use the system Acknowledgments