Nothobranchius furzeri was first discovered by Dr. W. Warne in the Gona Re Zhou Game Reserve in Southern Rhodesia (nowadays Zimbabwe). Gona Re Zhou means "place of the elephants" in Shona language and is a "lowveld" area with the typical bush vegetation and scarce and erratic precipitations. During the rain season water is funnelled into ephemeral streams to flow downstream in the Mozambique plain. Some water remain however trapped into pans that represent the habitat of temporary habitat of Nothobranchius furzeri and also a drinking point for wildlife. Distribution of Nothobranchius furzeri in Gona Re Zhou seems to be very patchy and it was detected in two specific pans named Sazale and Malugwe which form along the temporary river Guluene. This river then joins the river Chefu shortly before passing the border into Mozambique.
This harsh region is nowadays located in the wilderness area of the Gona Re Zhou National Park (a part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park) and is very seldom -if at all- visited by humans other than rangers and poachers.
Dr. W. Warne and R. Furzer collected some specimens in March 1968 and J. V. Ludbrook collected some more specimens in December 1968. These specimens were used as material for a formal species description by R. A. Jubb, a Southafrican researcher who pioneered the systematics of Nothobranchius, which was published in 1971 in the Journal of the American Killifish Association. The species is dedicated to Richard Furzer in recognition of his great efforts in distributing fish to U. S. hobbyists. In 1973 fish eggs were shipped from Rosario LaCorte in the U. S. to Dr. Walter Foersch in Munich who managed to obtain a healthy couple and it is believed that all current fish descend from this pair of fish. Nothobranchius furzeri holds ever since a legendary status among killifish enthusiasts and breeders which has warranted its persistence in captivity despite its short lifespan and breeding difficulty. A seminal person in the maintenance of this strain was Marc Bellemans in Belgium. In 2002, Stefano Valdesalici received eggs from Marc Bellemans and passed some to Alessandro Cellerino which were used for the first experiments. A second strain of Nothobranchius furzeri "Gona Re Zhou" is still maintained by Alexander Dorn, Germany. Genetic analyses (unpublished results) could not identify any difference between these two strains. Up to date, the species was never re-collected alive from Gona Re Zhou, despite several attempts and it might have disappeared from the Park.
In Spring 1999, a group of killifish hobbyists (Wood et al.) collected a different color morph of Nothobranchius furzeri in the Mozambique plain close to the Limpopo River about 300 km from Gona Re Zhou . Nothobranchius furzeri was collected in Southern Mozambique also by Cellerino, Terzibasi, Valdesalici and Valenzano (2004), Watters (2004), Hengstler (2005), Gomez (2006), Schartl et al. (2006), Cellerino, Hartmann, Reichwald and Terzibasi (2007), and repeatedly, starting from 2008, from Reichard and Polacik . All these collections confirmed that the species is abundant (although patchy in distribution) in Southern Mozambique and is in no danger of extinction. All these collections gave rise to a number of wild-derived isolates which are currently bred by hobbyists or used as laboratory strains (see Captive Strains).
Here is the original description of Nothobranchius furzeri (kind permission of the American Killifsh Society).
last update of this page: January 31, 2011
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