Date: 14 October 2002

To: J. Albert, H. Bart, P. Buckup, B. Burr, B. Chernoff, W. Eschmeyer, W. Fink, M. Kottelat, L. Malabarba, R. Mayden, N. Menezes, S. Schaefer, D. Seibert, P. Skelton, G. Smith, R. Vari, S. Weitzman

From: Larry Page

Re: All Freshwater Fish Species Inventory

I believe that you are aware of the proposal for an "All Catfish Species Project," that Lundberg, Ferraris, Armbruster, Sabaj and I are planning to submit to the National Science Foundation Biotic Surveys & Inventories Program in January 2003. The goal of the project is to discover and describe all species of catfishes in the world. This is certainly ambitious, but we have about 170 taxonomists and students from 20 countries interested in participating in the project and believe that with support from NSF the task can be completed in five years.

As we have worked on the proposal we have become concerned that we are underselling what will be accomplished. As we collect catfishes from remote areas of South America, Africa and Asia, we will collect and preserve specimens and tissues of all fish species encountered (except protected species). Collecting all species of fishes will increase the workload, but not to do so would be to miss an opportunity that will never materialize again. This effort will vastly increase the number of specimens available for study, result in the training of new systematists, and greatly increase our understanding of freshwater fishes and ecosystems.

Consequently, we are proposing that the project be changed to the "All Freshwater Fish Species Inventory" and that the catfish project become "Phase I. All Catfish Species Inventory." Phase II is likely to be "All Characins and Related Fishes (Characiformes) Inventory" and Phase III is likely to be "All Minnows and Related Fishes (Cypriniformes) Inventory." These three groups comprise about 6500 of the 10,000 described and valid species of freshwater fishes. With the addition of the 100 or so species of Gymnotiformes, they include all species of the Otophysi, a monophyletic group. Other large freshwater groups are the perciforms (about 2000 freshwater species), the cyprinodontiforms (800 species), osteoglossiforms (220 species), and atheriniforms (150 species). Although we will add large numbers of specimens in these other groups to museum collections, we will not target their descriptions. Instead, we will adhere to the clade-based goal of the expanded BS&I program and concentrate on otophysans. Major taxonomic efforts already are underway on several large groups of non-otophysans, including cichlids (1300 species) and mormyrids (200 species). Combined with the inventory we are proposing the goal of discovering and describing all species of freshwater fishes will be closely approached. We estimate that approximately one-half of the species of otophysans remain to be described.

We would not propose this project if we felt that it would in any way diminish the ability of ichthyologists to attract funding for their research. On the contrary, we feel that the large increase in specimens, tissues, and databases, and the additional support to train students in systematics will significantly enhance the ability of ichthyologists to compete for NSF and other funding. We are willing to endorse as a component of the AFFSI, any reasonable proposal that contributes to the discovery or description of freshwater fishes. The bottom line is that money from the BS&I Program at NSF will support the discovery of various groups of organisms. Fishes must be one of those groups!

We are contacting you with the idea of expanding the proposal because you are leader in characiform or cypriniform systematics. We would very much like to have your reactions, comments, and suggestions on the expanded project. To give you more information on the catfish component, below are two emails that have been sent to catfish taxonomists soliciting their participation (the list of participants attached to the 2nd email is now out of date).

Please email me or the other PIs when convenient, or call me at 352-337-6649, or suggest when I might call you. Thanks much! Hope all is going well with you.


Date: 25 June 2002

To: Potential Participants

From: Larry Page (, John Lundberg (, Mark Sabaj (, Carl Ferraris (, and Jonathan Armbruster (


Greetings: We are preparing a proposal to be submitted to the Biotic Surveys & Inventories Program (BS&I) of the U.S. National Science Foundation and are contacting you to solicit your input and participation in the project. 

The objective of the BS&I Program is species-level discovery and description. We are proposing to conduct a five-year inventory that will result in the descriptions of all of the catfishes of the world. Catfishes are selected because they are the most diverse clade of fishes with a worldwide distribution, they are the subject of investigation by a large number of scientists and, as we all know, are extraordinarily interesting organisms. We are contacting you because of your taxonomic expertise on one or more groups of catfishes.

The primary product of this project will be published descriptions of all species of catfishes that currently are undescribed. Additional products will be:
1. A website devoted to catfish diversity that will include a classification of catfishes, digital images of type-specimens coupled with live or well-preserved specimens, identification keys, distribution maps, a searchable bibliography of literature, and information on the project's participants.
2. An electronic mail listserver to facilitate communication among catfish taxonomists,
3. New collections of catfishes from locations where undescribed species are likely to be found,
4. The training of students and postdoctoral associates in catfish taxonomy and systematics.

In accordance with the objective of the BS&I Program, this project is restricted to species discovery and description. The program requires a high rate of productivity. The ALL CATFISH SPECIES PROJECT will facilitate the independent and original description of many undescribed catfish species already known to experts. It also will result in the discovery and description of unknown species of catfishes through careful review of unstudied catfish specimens already in natural history collections, and through targeted exploration and collecting at locations in South America, Africa and Asia known or expected to harbor diverse catfish faunas. In addition to its own field initiatives, this project will forge mutually productive links with several relevant ongoing or nascent projects of ichthyological exploration of catfish-rich waters.

We plan to develop a method for rapid, peer-reviewed publication of species descriptions at no publication cost to authors or their institutions. All manuscripts accepted for publication will be posted on the project's web site, where additional images or other material related to the species descriptions can be posted. Some participants also may choose to author catfish pages for the separate web-based Tree of Life; see (

Funds will be available for participants to travel to museums and/or to conduct fieldwork, and for printing costs related to the publication of species descriptions. The project will also sponsor workshops for participants. This project cannot fund studies that are limited to higher-level catfish phylogeny, molecular diversity and evolution, or ecology. Although investigations of these and other aspects of catfish biology are of interest to all of us, they are beyond the scope of the BS&I program.

We seek to be inclusive of taxonomists who are actively working on catfish species and we expect a large number of participants. Toward that end, we invite your participation, and your questions and comments.  If you choose to participate, please let us know by July 15 and indicate the catfish genera and families that you work on. We will contact you again about the level of your participation and funding opportunities. 

We will involve catfish taxonomists around the world and will appreciate receiving from you a list of catfish taxonomists (including students) whom you believe should be included (see our preliminary list below). Please send us the names, addresses, and email addresses for additional active catfish taxonomists whom you think should be involved and indicate the genera/families of catfishes under study by them. 

For those of you attending the ASIH meeting in Kansas City, we will meet as a group from 6-8pm on Friday, July 5, in the Senators Room on the 5th Floor of the Conference Hotel. Please plan to attend and bring your questions and suggestions for the project. 

Thank you for your cooperation and we look forward to your active participation in documenting catfish species of the world. We expect this project to generate a huge amount of scientific information on catfishes and to lead to a greater understanding and appreciation of biodiversity. We also are hopeful that ALL CATFISH SPECIES will serve as a model for other all-species global inventories. 

Date: 1 September 2002

To: Potential Participants {see list at end of this message.}

From: Larry Page (, John Lundberg (, Mark Sabaj (, Carl Ferraris (, and Jonathan Armbruster (


Greetings: It has been some time since we last contacted you about the All Catfish Species Project, but we want you to know that we have been hard at work on the proposal to be submitted to the U.S. National Science Foundation. If you would like to review the objectives of the project and review how you might benefit from this activity, a copy of the last email sent to you explaining the project is attached to the end of this message.

To complete the proposal due to NSF in early November, we need to receive one more email from you. In it, please provide the information listed below.  It is imperative that we receive an email from you with the information requested by 1 October 2002 because this is the only correspondence that will be attached to the proposal verifying that you are a participant. Without an email from you, we cannot list you as a participant and will not be able to provide funding for your research activities. Even if you emailed us before, we must receive this new email from you - with specific information about your involvement - in order to list you as a participant. Thanks very much for your response. We look forward to working with you in the near future.

In an email directed to one of us [Larry Page (, John Lundberg (, Mark Sabaj (, Carl Ferraris (, and Jonathan Armbruster (]:

1. Please state your overall impression of the project and what it will produce. How important do you believe the project to be?

2. Please state your willingness to participate. Tell us how you will participate by stating specifically what families or genera of catfishes you or your students (please give us their names) will study during the 5-year duration of the project.

3. Relative to the families or genera of catfishes you will study, how many described valid species are known for each family or genus? How many undescribed species do you think there are in those families/genera? When will your descriptions be completed?
You may wish to provide this information in the following tabular form.

4. We need to identify river basins where major efforts at collecting specimens should be concentrated. If you would like to nominate a river basin, please do so and explain why it would be a good candidate.

5. In the first year of the project, we plan to hold organizational workshops. One will be in South America, one in Africa, and one in Asia. If you would like to suggest a place to hold one or more of the workshops, and topics to be covered, please do so. 

6. Do you know of countries that legally prohibit the exportation of specimen tissue for DNA analysis? If so, please name them for us.

7. What type of funding (e.g., support for fieldwork, visits to museums, student support) would most enhance your ability to complete species descriptions? 

Principal Investigators
Armbruster, J.
Ferraris, C.
Lundberg, J.
Page, L.
Sabaj, M.
Other U.S. Participants in ACSP
Baskin, J.
Burgess, W.,
Burr, B.
Eschmeyer, W.E. weschmeyer@CalAcademy.Org
Friel, J.
Hardman, M.
Hendrickson, D.
Linder, S.
Littmann, M.
Nico, L.
Petry, P.
Retzer, M.
Schaefer, S.
Schmidt, R.
Stewart, D.
Vari, R.P.
Walsh, S.
Weitzel, R.
U.S. Graduate Students who have expressed interest in ACSP
Arrington, D.A. (advisor is J. Armbruster)
Buitrago, U. (advisor is B. Burr)
Dahdul, W. (advisor is J. Lundberg)
Lujan,N.K. (advisor is J. Armbruster)
Moyer, G. (advisor is B. Burr)
Ng, H.H. (advisor is W. Fink)
Thomas, M. (advisor is B. Burr)
Werneke, D. (advisor is J. Armbruster)

Non-U.S. Participants
Akama, A.
Allen, G.R.
Aquino, A.
Azpelicueta, M., 
Bills, R.
Bockmann, F.A.
Britski, H.
Britto, M.
Cardoso, A.R.
Carvalho, M.
Castro, R.M.C.
Coad, B.W.
de Abreu, T. X.
de Oliveira, J.C.
de Pinna, M.C.C.
DoNascimento, Carlos
Fernandez, L.
Fisch-Muller, S.
Galvis, G.
Ghazzi, M.S.
Guazzelli, G.M.
Isern, E.R.
Kottelat, M.
Krudpan, C.
Langeani, F.
Lasso A., C.A.
LeBail, P.,
Lima, F.C.T.
Lopez Rojas, H.
Lucinda, P.H.F.
Machado, A.
Mojica, I.
Motomura, H.
Moreira, C.R.
Musikasinthorn, P.
Odirlene (student of Rapp Py Daniel)
Ortega, H.
Oyakawa, O.
Parisi, B.
Pavanelli, C. S.
Pereira, E.H.L.
Porto-Soares, L.
Provenzano, F.
Quevedo, Rodrigo <>,
Rapp Py Daniel, L.
Reis, R.E.
Roberts, T.
Rodiles, R.
Rodriguez, C.
Royero, R.
Salcedo, N.J.
Shibatta, O.A.
Skelton, P.H.
Sousa, L.M.
Taphorn, D.
Teugels, G.
Valderrama, M.
Vallejos, F.M.C.
Vidthayanon, C.
Watanabe, K.
Weber, C.
Zawadzki, C. H.