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Life in Lake Atitlan (Ati Divers, La Iguana Perdida, Guatemala)

Life in Lake Atitlan (Ati Divers, La Iguana Perdida, Guatemala)



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Published by Natalie Gillis

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Published by: Natalie Gillis on Sep 25, 2007
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Black Crappie, Calico Bass
Pomoxis Nigromaculatus
Crappie is a member of the sunsh family 
, which includes many species
of spiny-nned, freshwater shes with deep,attened bodies found throughout North
Crappies are the largest of the sunshes,
reaching lengths of up to 30 cm/1 ft or more.There are two species, the white crappie(
Pomoxis annularis
) and the black crappie(
Pomoxis nigromaculatus
), though only  black crappie are found in Lago de Atitlàn.The black crappie has a rounded body with a greenish back and silvery sides with mottled black markings. It is this mottled patternthat gives the black crappie its other com-mon name: calico bass. Life span forthis species is about seven years.
Habitat and life cycle
Black crappie is a schooling sh
and lives in temperate ponds, lakes,streams, and resevoirs.Black crappie prefer
fertile lakes with rm
 bottoms and lots of plants and underwa-ter structures likelogs, stumpsand rocks.
Life in the Lake
By day, crappie tend to be less active and toconcentrate around weed beds or submergedobjects. They feed especially at dawn anddusk, moving into open water or approaching 
the shore. Adults feed mainly on smaller sh
(including the young of their own predators),
insects, craysh and tadpoles. Young sh eat
zooplankton (microscopic animals and other
organisms including water eas, mosquito
larvae, paramecia, amoebas, etc.) and grow 
5–7 cm/2–3 in. their rst year. Black crappieare preyed on by any larger shes, as well as
 by herons and turtles.Due to the species’ great range, breeding season varies by location, but breeding 
temperature is from 14–20 °C (58–68 °F).Crappie are sexually mature after 2–3 years.
Black crappie spawn in the same way as blue-
gill and other members of the sunsh family:males rst sweep out a nest in sand or gravel
in water 1–2 m/3–8 ft deep. Females then lay up to 60 000 eggs in the nests before leav-ing the males to guard the eggs, which hatch
after about a week. The newly hatched sh
stay in the nest a few days while they developa functional mouth, then move into the watercolumn. Males stay with the young until they are able to start feeding.
The crappie’s common name (alsospelled croppie or crappé), derivesfrom the Canadian French “crapet.”
Bluegill sunfish, Bream(
Lepomis macrochirus
Bluegill, also commonly referred to as bream,
is a member of the sunsh family (family 
). It is a deep, at-sided sh with a small mouth and long pectoral ns.Colouration varies, but the opercular ap(ear ap), an extension of the gill cover, is
always blue-black and bluegills have a black
spot near the back of the dorsal n. Bluegill
also have darker vertical bars along the sidesof the body, though these are not alwayspronounced. The name comes from the bright blue edging on the gill rakers.Bluegill grow to a maximum length of approximately 40 cm/16 in. Specimens in thelake frequently reach 15–20 cm/7–10 in.
Habitat and life cycle
Bluegill’s preferred habitat is clear,temperate lakes with some rooted vegetation.
This sh is native to a wide area of North
 America, from Quebec to northern Mexico,and has been widely introduced to stock
game sh for anglers. Bluegill was introduced
to Lago de Atitlàn along with the black bassin 1958 as a food source for the bass.The bluegill’s natural diet consists largely 
of small invertebrates and very small sh.
 Young bluegill mainly eat zooplankton ormicroscopic animals. Adults feed mainly onaquatic insects.
Life in the Lake
Bluegill is a schooling sh, with schools of 
20–30 individuals. They are nest spawnersand typically build nests in large groups.Males choose an area in shallow water (lessthan 1 metre/4 feet deep) and sweep outa saucer shaped nest with their tails. Thefemales then lay 10 000–60 000 eggs inthe nests, which are guarded by the males.
The eggs usually hatch in about ve days.
During the nesting period males assume a  very bold colouration. Some males assume
the colouration of the female sh so that the
males guarding the nests won’t be aggressivetowards them, allowing the “sneaker” malesto enter nests and spawn.
The cities of San Francisco, New Yorkand Washington have used bluegillsfor monitoring their water supplyfor toxins like pesticides, mercury,cyanide, heavy metals, fuel spillsand phosphates.Fish cough by flexing their gillsto expel unwelcome particles, likegrains of sand or chemical residues,from their breathing surfaces; thisflexing creates tiny vibrations inthe water. Instruments in the watersupply “listen” for these vibrationsand note any unusual amounts ofcoughing coming from the fish.
Convict cichlid, Zebra cichlid
(Cryptoheros nigrofasciatus,
 Archocentrus nigrofasciatus)
The convict cichlid is one of few native shes
left in Lago de Atitlàn. It is a moderately elon-
gated, laterally compressed sh with an oval
 body shape. The body is white to blue grey, with a grey head and eight or nine dark verti-cal bars across the body. The belly may haveorange or pink scales.Males grow to 15 cm/6 in, females to 12 cm/
5 in. Males generally have longer, more ow 
ing dorsal and anal ns, a steeper forehead
and sometimes a head hump. Females have
a rounder belly prole and are usually more
colourful, especially during spawning season, when they develop a yellow-orange belly toattract their young.
Habitat and life cycle
The convict cichlid is found within
Central America from Lake Atitlànand Lake Amatitlan in Guatemala south to lakes in El Salvador, Costa 
Rica and Panama.
Central America’s
rocky lake habitat,formed by volcaniccraters, providesdeep, steep, rocky sides and hard,alkaline water.
Life in the Lake
The convict cichlid stays close to cover likeroots, rocks and overhanging banks. Like
most Central American cichlids, it is very 
territorial and aggressive. It is omnivorous,
feeding on worms, crustaceans, insects, sh
and plant matter.Males and females form strong pair bonds,pairing off after a mating dance. Bothparents dig a pit in the gravel around theirchosen nest site, which is usually a smallcave or grotto. Spawns range from 50–100
eggs for sh less than a year old while older
pairs may lay 300 eggs or more. Once fertil-ized, eggs are guarded by both parents.Females fan oxygenated water over them while males patrol the outskirts of theterritory, chasing away intruders.The eggs hatch in about 3 days. The wriggling larvae may be moved by the parents to vari-ous pits dug in the lake bottom. A week later,the fry are free-swimming, but parents care
for them for another 3-4 weeks. Convict
cichlids are tireless parents, frequently exhibiting the following behaviours:
: Both parents guard the fry, withthe female staying closer to the fry while themale patrols the perimeter.
Fry retrieval and cleaning
: If a fry straystoo far from the group, a parent will swimto it, take the fry in its mouth and return itto the school. Parents also clean fry by tak-ing them in their mouths and “chewing” a bit before spitting them back out.
Fin-digging and leaf-turning
: Parents stirup food for the fry by wriggling in the gravel.They also turn over leaf litter on the bottomto expose invertebrate food items living onthe undersides.
Because the convict cichlid is veryhardy, thrives in almost any waterconditions, is easy to breed incaptivity and exhibits remarkableparental behaviour, it is one of themost popular cichlids for aquariumhobbyists.

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