Astroblepus pholeter

Collette 1962

Astroblepus pholeter
Redrawn by Rhian Kendall from Collette (1962)



It is possible that this species was first seen by Alexander Von Humboldt (1805) and described as Pimelodus cyclopum (Nico 2001) (See also Romero and Paulson 2001).




Holotype: USNM 196623 female 62mm SL. Paratypes: USNM 196671 male 64mm SL, female 66mm SL, FMNH 63855 female 57mm SL.


Type locality: Jumandi Cave, Archidona, Napo Province, Ecuador (0o30’S, 78o00W). Known also from xxxxxxxxxx (Hoese, Addison, Toulkeridis and Toomey 2015).


Jumandi Cave consists of a vadose stream passage 800m in length with a further 400m of side passages. The stream rises from a sump, flows through the cave, falls over a waterfall 0.8m high, and resurges from the cave mouth. Water temperature is 15o‑20oC, pH neutral, and water medium hard. The other aquatic species to be commonly seen are a characin fish Creagrutus muleri, a prawn Machrobrachium brasiliense, and nymphs of a mayfly Euthyplocia. The last of these provide the bulk of the diet of A. pholeter (Brown 1981; Hanson 1981; Brown and Hanson 1981). Sket (1985) records the amphipod Bogidiella gammariformis


Collette (1962:313) states that A. pholeter is very different from all other known species of Astroblepus. However, some of the differences he cites (reduced pigment and eyes and increased barbel length) are simply related to a cave‑dwelling existence (stygomorphic characters) and provide no help in elucidating the relationships of the species. In other characteristics (long filaments on dorsal and anal fins, long pelvic fins, and a barbel on the nasal flap) it superficially resembles A. longifilis. It differs from this species by possessing (at least in the type series) a distinct adipose spine and in lacking an adipose ridge between dorsal and caudal fins. The adipose spine, however, poses a question since none of the animals observed by Hanson (1981) possessed one. This difference is so far unexplained.

Chardon (1966, 1968:196‑201) studied the Weberian apparatus of many siluriform fishes. He concluded that various of the Weberian structures of A. pholeter are unique.

Conservation Status


(Jimenez-Prado and Arguello 2016. Astroblepus pholeter. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016. Downloaded on 02 July 2017).The species has a restricted range and probably is affected by habitat modification produced by cropland, livestock, dams and urbanization. It therefore probably qualifies for classification in a threatened category under criterion B1b(iii). However, at present the lack of precise field data, largely concerning severity of population fragmentation and number of locations, impedes determination of the appropriate category (Endangered). It is therefore classified as Near Threatened.

Museum Holdings

As above plus: BMNH.

Key References

Humboldt, F. H. A. Book Section 1805 IVe Memoire, sur une nouvelle espece de Pimelode, jetee par les volcans du Royaume de Quito
Collette, B. B. Journal Article 1962 Astroblepus pholeter, a new species of cave-dwelling catfish from eastern Ecuador
Chardon, M. Journal Article 1966 Specialisation anatomique de l'appareil de Weber d'Astroblepus pholeter, Silure cavernicole microphthalme de la Republique de l'Equateur
Chardon, M. Journal Article 1968 Anatomie comparee de l'appareil de Weber et des structures connexes chez les Siluriformes
Balazs, D. Journal Article 1972 The Jumandi Caves of Ecuador
Balazs, D. Journal Article 1974 The Jumandi Caves of Ecuador
Montoriol-Pons, J. Journal Article 1976 [A note on the Jumandi Cave (Archidona, Napo Province)]
Sket, B. Journal Article 1979 [Fauna in the Caverna de Jumandi]
Hanson, P. D. Book Section 1981 The aquatic fauna
Brown, P. and Hanson, P.D. Journal Article 1981 The Jumandi Cave of Ecuador
Brown, P Report 1981 Southampton University expedition to Ecuador 1979
Sket, B. Journal Article 1985 Bogidiella (s.l.) gammariformis sp. n. (Amphipoda) from Ecuador
Peck, S. B. Journal Article 1985 The invertebate fauna of the tropical American caves. Part 6:Jumandi Cave, Ecuador
Peck, S. B. Book Section 1994 Ecuador
Nico, LG Journal Article 2001 Alexander Von Humboldt (1769-1859): Contributions to knowledge of New World fishes
Romero, A. and Paulson, K.M. Journal Article 2001 Humbodt's alleged subterranean fish from Ecuador
Schaefer, SA and Buitrago-Suarez, UA Journal Article 2002 Odontode morphology and skin surface features of Andean astroblepid catfishes (Siluriformes, Astroblepidae)
Haspel, G., Schwartz, A., Streets, A., Camacho, D. E. and Soares, D. Journal Article 2012 By the teeth of their skin, cavefish find their way
Haspel, G., Schwartz, A. and Soares, D. Journal Article 2012 Unique mechanosensory adaptation to extreme environments in cavefish
Spadella, Maria Angelica, Oliveira, Claudio, Ortega, Hernan, Quagio-Grassiotto, Irani and Burns, John R. Journal Article 2012 Male and female reproductive morphology in the inseminating genus Astroblepus (Ostariophysi: Siluriformes: Astroblepidae)
Hoese, G, Addison, A, Toulkeridis, T and Toomey, R Journal Article 2015 Observation of the catfish Chaetostoma microps climbing in a cave in Tena, Ecuador
Robinson, J Journal Article 2017 Astroblepus pholeter: Convergent regressive evolution of the mc1r gene in cavefish species