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The Crucifix Catfish

Allan James


his is a brief look into how Sciades proops, one of the many sea catfishes in this genus, received the common name of the "Crucifix Catfish".


Sciades proopsFirst of all we need to familiarise ourselves with the family and the genus concerned. Arius proops from the family Ariidae is now a synonym, and the correct scientific name for this fish is Sciades proops due to the work carried out by Marceniuk et al (2007). Ariidae is the only family that is found worldwide from the Australasian continent to the South American continent and they can be found in marine, brackish or freshwater. Our subject resides on the North Eastern tip of South America from Colombia round the coast to Venezuela and the Caribbean and down the Atlantic side of South America bordering Brazil, Surinam, Guyana and French Guiana.


 

 

 

 

 



The powerful thorn of the first dorsal fin ray.The old scientific name of Arius is derived from the Greek word Apelos (pronounced Araios) which means "sanctified by the god of war", and refers to the bony structure extending from the skull covering to the powerful thorn of the first dorsal fin ray.

The underside of the skull covering has a bony structure which can be seen when all the flesh and soft parts are removed. It then looks like a crucifix or like a painting of Christ crucified, and is surrounded by a Weberian bone in form of a halo. The upper rough part of the skull roof which is also visible on the living fish, looks like a Monk with a cowl and hood and his arms outstretched in prayer. Others see this as a Roman soldier with armour on his chest and the dorsal fin spine is the lance which he opened up Christs side.

 

 

 

 


The upper rough part of the skull roof which is also visible on the living fish, looks like a Monk with a cowl and hood and his arms outstretched in prayerThe Crucifix catfish was first reported in a travel report in 1789 and today you can see in the Market places in the ports of these South American countries with the bony structure laid out with Christian symbols painted on them.

The pictures depicted in this article are from Ann & Danny Blundells trip to the Margarita Islands just of the North Coast of Venezuela and a popular destination for tourists from the United Kingdom.

 

I am indebted to Danny who took these pictures and who is himself a very accomplished photographer, and treasurer of the Catfish Study Group along with Ann who carries out her duties as Secretary of the group.

Below are the rest of the images in this article. I have arranged them in thumbnail fashion and you can click on them for a larger image. They are all the Copyright of D. Blundell except for the map of Venezuela.

 

For a mini factsheet on this species, go here




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Island of Margarita of the coast of Venezuela
Island of Margarita of the coast of Venezuela
Specimen showing the bony structure in the Museum on the Island of Margarita
Specimen showing the bony structure in the Museum on the Island of Margarita
The same specimen showing the full skeletal body
The same specimen showing the full skeletal body
Showing the spiny first dorsal ray and vertabrae
Showing the spiny first dorsal ray and vertabrae

Reference: Grzmeck's Animal Life Encyclopedia Volume 4 Fishes 1, 1963

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                                                                        Article updated = December 13, 2009 © ScotCat 1997-2011  Go to Top