Cichlid of the Week: Tropheus moorii

Now that we’re at the lake and have gotten things relatively situated, I thought it would be appropriate to begin a (roughly) weekly series called the Cichlid of the Week. While it would be appropriate for me to begin with Neolamprologus pulcher, I haven’t actually seen them yet (they aren’t really found above 10 m – and our SCUBA tanks won’t be here until Monday). In light of that, I thought I’d start out with another fish that we’ve seen plenty of in the shallows.

Tropheus moorii is a shallow water species found everywhere in the lake. They have a huge number of color morphs. We’ve seen at least three morphs here, the most abundant have dark bodies and bright yellowish blotches on their sides. The largest individuals we’ve seen are roughly 20-25 cm in length. They’re very territorial (see video below), and are persistently chasing each other away from their self-proclaimed home rock. These fish are also maternal mouth brooders, which means the females take the fertilized eggs into their mouths and keep them there until after they hatch. Even after they’ve hatched, the fry flee back into their mothers mouth at the first indication of danger.

In the video below you’ll see two fish fighting over a particular spot, and one fish eventually running off the other. Interactions like this seem to be continuously happening amongst these fish.

Today we all also went for a short run and a brief workout set. One more reason for the locals to think the Mzungus are crazy I suppose…

18 hour bus ride to paradise

We made it to the lake!

On Wednesday afternoon we headed to the bus stop in Lusaka where we boarded a bus which was to take us to Mplungu, a small city on Lake Tanganyika. The bus ride was long, crowded, and often smelly (the bus also had a disconcerting abundance of roaches). At various stops along the way we had to pay one kwatcha (~20 cents US) to use the restrooms.

Zambian roads are terrifying. Our bus driver did not hesitate to pass any vehicles he felt moved too slow on the 1.75 lane road. I only slept an hour or two total, but feel pretty good now anyway.

Once in Mplungu, we were picked up by the Department of Fisheries who helped us move our gear and also shuttled us to our lodge. Upon arriving we got our gear organized, made sure nothing was damaged in the latter part of our journey, and had a delicious lunch that redefined fish and chips.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The lodge is simple but beautiful, and Augustine and Celestine who run the lodge along with their family are extremely friendly. Adam (from McMaster) and I are sharing a hut right on the lakes shore.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After lunch, we couldn’t resist to go in the water for a little snorkeling. I didn’t go further our than 3 meters, and just in that space the diversity of fish is unbelievable; dozens of species of cichlids, plus catfish, eels, and other assorted fish. The lake is beautiful; our lodge is at the southern shore. To our west is a huge rocky ridge, to our east we can barely see the opposite ridge (the lake is part of the African Rift Valley). Much closer to our east is the Forbidden Island, on which only men are allowed – more on that when at least some of the team visit it. All day fisherman have passed by in their wooden boats and nearly all of them have waved and said hello.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I am sure as soon as the sun goes down we will all quickly get tired, but as for now its pleasant to sit under shelter on the shore and watch the waves roll in. It is our hope in the next day or two that our compressor and tanks will be ready; and we’ll be able to see the species we  came for: Neolamprologus pulcher.

Day 3 in Lusaka

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Above: Joe and Jenn caught off guard by a photo in the back of the Land Cruiser.

Today our final team member, Kelly, arrived. After picking her up from the airport and having breakfast, we went to the Department of Immigration to get our permits to stay here and do research. While it took a while, it could have taken much longer. We also visited Dr. Katongo at the University of Zambia where we met with a professor who has helped us work with the Zambian government and was gracious enough to provide us with some ethanol for our samples (flying with ethanol would have presented some obvious problems). He and everyone else we met in the Department of Biology we met was extremely friendly (as it seems everyone in Zambia is), and it was great to see another college campus.

Around the house and in various other parts of town we’ve seen plenty of interesting things (at least to a group of biologists): plenty of lizards, giant millipedes, and huge land snails. I’m guessing most of the Zambians consider us pretty unusual Mzungus when they see us all huddled around a tree or anthill.

It looks like we will be heading to the lake on Wednesday on an overnight bus ride, so we’ll arrive Thursday morning in Mplungu. Tomorrow we have some more errands to run, and we’ll need to get everything organized for the bus trip.

 

We’re here!

Image

Above: a new friend at the farm.

We made it to Zambia! It is currently 5:30 p.m. here in Lusaka, we’re staying at the farm outside of town for the next few days before we depart for the lake. Its warm. Its beautiful. Everyone is extremely friendly. Today after leaving the airport we came to the farm, unloaded our gear, and cleaned up before going to the mall to pick up phones and SIM cards, as well as get some money changed to Kwatcha. Since returning to the farm, we’ve all quickly fallen asleep. The climate here today reminded me a lot of inland Florida, complete with an afternoon rain.

I did get a phone, its not a smart phone, and to my knowledge I don’t receive photo texts, but if you’d like the number e-mail me at my OSU account ligocki.3 and I’ll try to get it to you! It may be cheaper to call my phone over Skype, I’m unsure.

Everyone sounds like they’re from London!

ImageJenn and I getting ready to leave Columbus.

Jenn and I have arrived at Heathrow Airport in London. We’re currently waiting for all but one of the team members to arrive here (Kelly flies in on Monday) in the hopes we can meet up for lunch.

Both of our bags have been searched three times, each time we’ve had to explain what the dive weights and dissolved oxygen meters are. Both at JFK and Heathrow we didn’t realize we would be going through security again, and each time had to chug Nalgene bottles full of water before going through.I think the security officials are more entertained than anything else with all the random junk we have with us.

I must say the flight from JFK to here was one of the best I’ve been on. The concierge changed our seats so Jenn and I could share a row, but then it turned out there were few enough passengers that we each got our own row and got a few hours of sleep. The flight attendants were very friendly and the food was actually very good.

We’re here for 12 hours before flying to Lusaka overnight. I’m a little bummed that both flights are overnight; this morning I saw the city lights in Ireland, it would have been cool to see the landscape. Tonight we’ll be going over the Mediterranean, the Sahara, and the Congo. All at night. In any case, this is going to be an amazing trip, and I’m sure there will be plenty to see once in Zambia!

 

One week out!

In less than a week I’ll be en route to Zambia for the long awaited 3 month expedition, and I can’t wait! To be honest, after planning for this trip over the last 6 months, it seems a little surreal that it’s so close. The plan is to arrive in Lusaka (the capital of Zambia) on Saturday morning, and spend a few days getting things together before taking an 8 hour bus ride to Mpulungu, on the lake. I’ll be buying a phone while in Lusaka, I’m not sure exactly how phone calls and texts will work there, but if you want that information when I have it let me know.

The high temperature for tomorrow in Mpulungu is 73 degrees F (23 degrees C), which will be a stark contrast to the snowy drive I had in today. Once there, I’m sure I’ll have tons of interesting things to write about, but in the meantime all I can tell you about is my decision making process in selecting ear drops, or how happy I am my income tax paperwork arrived before I left, so I’ll spare you.

SciFund

I promise a science post is coming very soon (grades are due tomorrow and my load will lighten exponentially).  With three days remaining in the SciFund Challenge I just wanted to express how grateful I am to everyone who has contributed so far.  Your generosity means so much to me, and you’re really making this expedition possible.  Its been so exciting to check my inbox and see so many updates from RocketHub informing me that another person is willing to invest in my work.  Thank you all so much!