Lobbying her colleagues… Handing out stickers… You would have thought Tasha B., annual giving manager at the Aquarium, was running for mayor of Vancouver. But she was actually just trying to garner support for her nomination for March’s Staff Pick of the Month: the arapaima (Arapaima gigas).
The arapaima is thought to be the largest freshwater fish in the world – able to grow to 4.5 metres long according to some – about the length of a car. This ancient fish is found in the rivers and lakes of the Amazon Basin where the amount of oxygen fluctuates and can drop considerably under certain conditions. For this reason, adult arapaimas rise to the surface to breathe air every 10-20 minutes, instead of breathing oxygen only from the surrounding water using their gills. Their “lungs” are their modified swim bladders.
“Until I first saw the arapaima here at the Aquarium, I had no idea that fish could be air-breathers.”
There are more fascinating discoveries that Tasha has made since working at the Aquarium.
“I was also surprised to find out that the arapaima has a bony tongue studded with teeth, which it uses to crush food (other fishes) up against the roof of its mouth.”
Not only is this specialized tongue useful to the arapaima, it’s also used as a scraping and grinding tool by the indigenous peoples of the Amazon.
Tasha says she feels like she’s looking into the past when she sees the arapaima.
“It’s an ancient species that has been around for millions of years and truly does look prehistoric. It makes me sad to think that after surviving all this time it’s now faced with the possibility of extinction due to overfishing and habitat loss.”
See the arapaima in the Graham Amazon Gallery.