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Arapaima (genus)

Arapaima is a genus of bonytongues native to the Amazon and Essequibo basins of South America.[1][2] They are among the largest freshwater fish in the world, reaching lengths of as much as 4.5 m (15 ft).[1] They are important food fish and have declined in the native range due to overfishing and habitat loss. In contrast, arapaima have been introduced to several tropical regions outside the native range (within South America and elsewere) where sometimes considered as invasive species.[3]

The genus has traditionally been regarded as monotypic (only including a single species), but following recent studies, it has been established that there are several species.[2][4][5] As a consequence of this taxonomic confusion, most earlier studies have been done using the name A. gigas, but this species is only known from old museum specimens and the exact native range is unclear. The regularly seen and studied species is A. arapaima,[4][5][6] although a very small number of A. leptosoma also have been recorded in the aquarium trade.[7] The remaining species are virtually unknown: A. agassizii is only known from old detailed drawings (the type specimen itself was lost during World War II bombings) and A. mapae is only known from the type specimen.[2][4][5] A. arapaima is relatively thickset compared to the remaining species.[4][5]


Based on FishBase, there are currently four recognized species in the genus.[1] In addition to these, evidence suggests that a fifth species, Arapaima arapaima should be recognized (this being the widespread, well-known species, otherwise included in A. gigas).[4][5][6][8]


  1. ^ a b c Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2013). Species of Arapaima in FishBase. August 2013 version.
  2. ^ a b c Castello, L.; and Stewart, D.J (2008). Assessing CITES non-detriment findings procedures for Arapaima in Brazil. NDF Workshop case studies (Mexico 2008), WG 8 – Fishes, Case study 1
  3. ^ Miranda-Chumacero, G.; Wallace, R.; Calderón, H.; Calderón, G.; Willink, P.; Guerrero, M.; Siles, T.M.; Lara, K.; and Chuqui, D. (2012). Distribution of arapaima (Arapaima gigas) (Pisces: Arapaimatidae) in Bolivia: implications in the control and management of a non-native population. BioInvasions Records 1(2): 129–138
  4. ^ a b c d e Stewart, D.J. (2013). A New Species of Arapaima (Osteoglossomorpha: Osteoglossidae) from the Solimões River, Amazonas State, Brazil. Copeia, 2013 (3): 470-476.
  5. ^ a b c d e Stewart, D. J. (2013). Re-description of Arapaima agassizii (Valenciennes), a rare fish from Brazil (Osteoglossomorpha, Osteoglossidae). Copeia, 2013: 38-51
  6. ^ a b Dawes, J: Arapaima Re-classification and the Trade. Retrieved 24 May 2014
  7. ^ Howard, B.C. (13 October 2013). New Species of Giant Air-Breathing Fish: Freshwater Species of the Week. National Geographic. Retrieved 24 May 2014
  8. ^ Clarke, M. (15 January 2010).Five Arapaima species, not one. Practicalfishkeeping. Retrieved 24 May 2014.


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