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Description of Project

North American Freshwater Fishes: Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior is an edited, multi-authored practical and comprehensive guide to the freshwater fishes in North America. The area of coverage includes Canada, the continental United States, and parts of Mexico. The delineation of the southern boundary is explicit and characterized by the southern limit of many northern species and the northern limit of some Central American species (see Mayden 1992).

The intent of the book is to synthesize evolutionary (speciation, systematics, taxonomy, classification, keys), ecological (autecological, population, community), varied biological information (morphology, genetic, behavioral, etc.), and reviews of historical biogeography, community evolution, and behavioral evolution in a general, yet comprehensive overview volume on North American freshwater fishes. In many ways, it will be similar in intent to the previous volumes published by Academic Press by Thorp and Covich (2001 [second edition]) on invertebrates. This book will be attractive to private conservation organizations, State and Federal agencies and organizations, professionals in the fields of natural sciences, and laypersons alike. It will be used by scientists working with aquatic environments and organisms, regardless of whether they focus their studies on fishes. It will be essential to persons with specialties in biodiversity; conservation biology; fisheries science; environmental modeling and monitoring; food-web dynamics; general, population, community, and ecosystem ecology; evolution; biogeography; speciation; systematics; and cellular and molecular biology.

Over 1,200 species comprise the North American freshwater fish fauna (Mayden et al., 1992). The importance of freshwater fish species in North American ecosystems, establishing conservation priorities, and developing economic values in commerce can not be emphasized enough. In the last 20-30 years there have been major efforts towards achieving some of these goals; however, very little of this literature has been compiled and synthesized on the varied groups of fishes to be of general use to those not in specialized fields.

This will be the first-ever published volume reviewing the diversity, taxonomy, and systematics of the fauna with keys to the genera for all North American freshwater species. It will also summarize information of families and genera regarding their fossil record, morphological diversity (functional as well), genetics, physiology, behavior, reproduction, ecology, and commercial importance. The introduction to the book reviews the overall North American fish diversity and their relationships (and classification), and compares this to other continental faunas, as well as those fishes world wide (Chapter 1, Introduction). Chapter 2 focuses on the Identification of Fishes, aiding users with pertinent morphological complexities, measurement, and meristic methods, and a routine lexicon of specialized terminology used in the identification of fishes. Other chapters to be included (in addition to those targeting a specific family or series of families) include Evolution and Ecology of North American Fish Communities, Behavioral Evolution in North American Fishes, Biogeography of North American Fishes, Conservation Biology and North American Fishes, Exotic Fish Species in North America and Their Impacts, and Diversity and Conservation Status of North American Fish Species, and indexes (see Outline).

This comprehensive review of such an ecologically, evolutionarily, and economically important group of aquatic organisms living in an ever-increasing endangered ecosystem of the world, will be invaluable to all types of aquatic scientists and laypersons, alike.

NOTE: The intent of the book is to review what is known about these important fish groups. Very little to no NEW, unpublished information should be used in the chapters. Of course, it is understood that some new things will have to be incorporated, especially when dealing with summaries of information, consensus of different phylogenetic hypotheses, etc.


The book will focus upon fishes listed by Mayden et al. (1992) as to the families, genera, and species included for review [species diversity has obviously increased since this list was generated]. Although the majority of the book will discuss basic information regarding the evolution, classification, and biologies of the fishes from 48 families, eight additional chapters are included to summarize and address broader questions. A total of 26 chapters focus on different fish families. Those focusing on a single family are those where the group is generally diverse and contains taxa that (1) are notably important commercially/ ecologically and/or (2) have considerable information available on the biologies of species. Other families are grouped into common chapters because of their limited diversity in North American freshwaters or because only limited details are available for the included taxa.


The proposed book will be used by ichthyologists (experts and students), aquarists, fisheries biologists, Federal and State officials dealing with fishes, ecologists, evolutionary biologists, consulting firms, management agencies, college professors, and research students involved in aquatic sciences. This book will be a major reference volume for a great diversity of people in varied disciplines. The audience will be similar to that for Ecology and Classification of North American Freshwater Invertebrates (Thorp and Covich, 2001).

The book will become a standard reference by specialists and will be a required text for university libraries, research laboratories, government management agencies, museums, individual scientists, consulting firms, and others interested in the great diversity of North American freshwater fishes. The book will be adopted by different colleges and universities for advanced courses in ichthyology or biology of fishes in North America.


Because of both the diversity of fishes in North America and the great diversity of literature on these fishes, it is no longer possible for one or a few authors to complete such an authoritative and comprehensive publication covering the multiple topics included in the volume. In essence, it will be developed in a similar fashion to the very popular Academic Press book by Thorp and Covich (2001) on freshwater invertebrates (Ecology and Classification of North American Freshwater Invertebrates).

For the individual chapters focusing on taxonomic groups, an outline of how the chapter is to be structured is provided below. For those of you contributing chapters of this nature please follow this outline; if you feel that other topics independent of those listed below need to be addressed please contact me. It may be that other authors can provide information in the same area for their family or families. For each chapter there will be a short introduction to the family and then the following sections. I have listed each and provided a brief description of the type of information to be included.


Mayden, R. L. 1992. Systematics, Historical Ecology, and North American Freshwater Fishes. Stanford University Press.

Mayden, R. L., B. M. Burr, L. M. Page, and R. R. Miller. 1992. The native freshwater fishes of North America, p. 827-863. In: Systematics, Historical Ecology, and North American Freshwater Fishes. R. L. Mayden (ed.). Stanford University Press.

Thorp, J. H., and A. P. Covich. 2001. Ecology and classification of North American freshwater invertebrates. Academic Press. (first edition 1991).