Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the March 10, 2008 Newsletter written in the community of 28 de Junio, in the Central Valley 8 kms east of Pujiltic, Chiapas, MÉXICO
about 800 meters in elevation, ± LAT. 16° 18'N, LONG. -92° 28'W.

Astyanax mexicanus

The other day while washing my clothes in a canal certain little fish were particularly interested in nibbling my toes. My picture, taken just to remind you of the summery, fish-nibbling-toes feeling, is the above one.

Not only is it surprising to find so many so far upstream in an artificial canal, but also I'm amazed that they have survived the area's high pesticide use.

Several readers suggested names for the little minnow-like fish. Both Karen in Mississippi and Sleazel in Florida identified them as ASTYANAX MEXICANUS of the Characidae. At least in Belize the fish are known as Billum.

Buford somewhere in cyberspace wrote

"They swarm around any meat, living or dead, that enters their waters, and go after any little extension of that body whether it is dead skin, parasites or warts. But beware... Don't go skinny-dipping with these guys, Or you will get a nasty surprise!"

Sleazel had different advice:

"They are vicious little @#$%& not unlike their cousins the Piranhas, and will aggressively harass anything within their realm, including you, which is why they are so good at picking off seed ticks! I just sit there naked as best I can letting them munch nads!"

"If one attempts to fish in a river infested with billum (and all are) they will see the lure or bait flying overhead and intercept it the moment it hits the water making it impossible to catch larger fish. Try it yourself, throw a pebble across a stream."