The stories they could tell, these fishes that once swam the ocean deep and are now in jars and bottles.
In the 1960s and '70s, Richard Rosenblatt, a marine biologist at California's Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), set out on field expeditions to remote places to study the fishes of the Pacific Ocean.
During trips south to Mexican waters, Rosenblatt and other scientists retrieved hundreds of specimens of various species.
Most were incorporated into the Scripps Marine Vertebrate Collection (MVC), a fish archive used by scientists around the world.
The collections formed the basis of studies on the systematics of marine fishes by Rosenblatt and others. But due primarily to a lack of space at SIO, much of the treasure trove remained unsorted.
These and more recent collections of fishes now number more than 400 inside containers big and small.
A decade ago, the MVC moved to a new location on the SIO campus, providing the needed space to process the samples.
"Each of these containers could include a couple of different species, or dozens in some cases, but from a collection or a scientific perspective, we don't know what's in those jars," said marine biologist Phil Hastings, who took over as curator of the fish collection from Rosenblatt in 1999.
"They potentially provide new data on the diversity, distribution and abundance of fishes throughout the region, but until they are fully processed they are of limited scientific value."
He'll soon find out what's in those jars.
Thanks to an award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Hastings and colleagues have begun opening the mysterious containers.
"This unique collection from historical and remote locations may hold insights into understanding biodiversity and ecosystem changes in the ocean's pelagic zone," said Anne Maglia, program director in NSF's Division of Biological Infrastructure, which awa
|Contact: Cheryl Dybas|
National Science Foundation