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Visiting Dr. William L. Fink, University of Michigan
Few people have had such an impact on my life as this scientist and gentleman. He gave my family and me a tour of his laboratory, The Neotropical Division at the University of Michigan during a recent visit. Aside from the hundreds of thousands of specimens in bottles, he also took special pains to educate my son Mario and teach him about the mysteries of fish collection and why Comparative Anatomy is such a fascinating career in ichthyology. We spent hours going through 2 story high shelves, while Bill told us something about each specimen that caught our eyes.
Of course, I examined hundreds of bottles containing piranhas in preservative including some over 100 year old specimens in formalin. A few were in huge trunks! I also saw bottles labeled as being from Brian Scott (TFH) which had quite a few P. nattereri from Peru often commonly called Super Reds. Below are a few photos out of many we took showing the interior of his work area. I had some difficulty in properly identifying some of the specimens and Fink intimated that he and Dr. Antonio Machado had laid out many specimens supposedly of the same species together with the same problems. There is so much diversity in these fish species.
Thousands of bottles of fish in formalin in several large rooms. NEODAT computer (4GB). Lab table used for examining specimens.
Large S. manueli (14 inch SL), S. hastatus (holotype)... Giant trunkful of undescribed species from Dr. M. Goulding... Dr. Fink door plaque... Posing with the professor.
Unless you see the huge collection of piranhas with your own eyes, you cannot come to appreciate how much we need to learn what those problems are. Certainly, piranha identification is going to be a huge undertaking that may not happen in my lifetime and for sure one person will not be able to do it without the proper training in that field.
From the deepest of my heart, I remain grateful to Dr. Fink for taking the time to give us this tour. I sincerely hope that one day we can meet again for more time than I had to visit due to my travel itinerary constraints.
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