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".
First 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 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
The 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,
Animal Life Encyclopedia Volume 4 Fishes 1,
||Island of Margarita
of the coast of Venezuela
the bony structure in the Museum on the Island of Margarita
||The same specimen
showing the full skeletal body
||Showing the spiny
first dorsal ray and vertabrae