Professor and Curator of Fishes

Ichthyology, Systematics, Morphology, Ecology

Ph.D. Biology, University of Illinois, 1997

B.S. Ecology, Ethology, and Evolution, 1991

OFFICE: 303 Funchess

LAB: 308 Funchess

FISH COLLECTION: 5 Physiology Building

PHONE: Office-(334) 844-9261, Lab-(334-844-3470)

FAX: (334) 844-9234


Honors and awards:

1.1997-1998 - Smithsonian Institution Postdoctoral Fellowship

2.1998 - National Geographic Society grant to study the fishes of Guyana

3.2000 - Tri Beta Teacher of the Year

4.2001 - National Science Foundation grant to study a group of loricariids in the shield regions of South America

5.2003 - National Science Foundation Collection Improvement Grant

6.2003 - National Science Foundation grant - All Catfish Species Inventory 

7.2007 – Alumni Professor, Auburn University Alumni Association

8.2010 - National Science Foundation Collection Improvement Grant

9.2010 - National Science Foundation grant - All Cypriniformes Species Inventory


I am particularly interested in reconstructing the evolution of the genera of the South American suckermouth armored catfishes or plecos (Loricariidae) using morphological characteristics. I also explore in detail various types of morphological systems such as those related to wood-eating in some loricariid catfishes and accessory respiratory structures. Wood-eating is found in two genera of loricariid catfishes and is accompanied by changes in the bones and the evolution of large spoon-shaped teeth. Many loricariids breathe air and there is a large number of adaptations the fishes use to do so including what appears to be a unique evolution of a lung and a unique evolution of a swim-bladder from that lung. I am also involved in taxonomic revisions of many groups of loricariids as well as other fishes . In addition, I am active in exploring the biodiversity of the planet, particularly that of South America. Studies are underway in Venezuela and Guyana (photo above is taken at Kaiteur Falls in Guyana) to determine what fish species are there and what impact humans may be having on them.  In addition, I have just begun work on African and North American minnows and barbs.

With over 600 described species, Loricariidae is the largest family of catfishes in the world and among the top five largest fish families.  As part of my interests in the taxonomy of loricariid catfishes such as the one shown above, I have written a web-key to the genera of three of the subfamilies of Loricariidae.  These three subfamilies (Hypostominae, Neoplecostominae, and a new subfamily) total at least three-fourths of the genera of Loricariidae, and previously no reliable information was available to recognize the genera.  GO TO LORICARIID HOME PAGE.


I teach Comparative Anatomy (BIOL 3010), Evolution and Systematics (BIOL 3030),  and Systematic Ichthyology (BIOL 7160). Comparative Anatomy is the study of the evolution of the morphological systems of vertebrates.  I teach this every Spring and Summer.  Evolution and  Systematics is an introductory course on evolution.  I teach this every other year.  Systematic Ichthyology is a graduate level class designed to explore the systematics of fishes with a particular emphasis on the fishes of Alabama. Systematic Ichthyology is taught when there is enough demand.


Rhinodoras armbrusteri, photo by M.H. Sabaj

Neblinichthys echinasus

Rhinodoras armbrusteri

Leporacanthicus galaxias