Porthole Livebearers are aptly named. The little spots along their lateral line could totally be hiding tiny cannon; you’d never know.

Species: Porthole Livebearer (Poeciliopsis gracilis)
Location: Undisclosed Location, American Southwest
Date: August 8, 2018

I didn’t end up pursuing a career as a fish biologist. From the time I was little, it was my dream. The reality was I graduated from high school in 2008, the year The Great Recession peaked, and by the time I got to college, most career fields had dismal offerings. I was one of about 35 people in the Environmental Science program at Oregon Tech. I was fascinated by nature, biology, and being able to work with fish. I was not fascinated by math, and I had the grades to prove it.

At the beginning of my freshman year, I took a long, hard look at myself and did what I hated most: math. There were two new fisheries biology jobs posted in the entire state of Oregon during 2008 when I started college. I had about 150 people in my program, which was one of several around the state. Even accounting for those folks planning to go into the fields of veterinary medicine, organic chemistry, hydrology, geology, botany, or ag science after finishing their undergrad degree, I was still competing with dozens of people for one of those two jobs. Four years down the road, there might be more than two, but for the guy who got a his only grade lower than a B on his first attempt at Math 111, it didn’t look promising.

So I switched to a dual degree in Operations Management and Marketing. These two fields were always hiring, and I figured I could keep fishing as a hobby. So I did.

By the time I got into Lifelist fishing and began my #SpeciesQuest in earnest, I was years removed from college. In fact, I was years removed from the private sector having settled into a job teaching high school business classes and completing a Master’s in Postsecondary Education. Despite the tedium and endless nonsense provided by a Master’s in higher ed, dead languages were never covered. Since I’d left my undergrad Environmental Science studies before taking many courses, I couldn’t speak Latin. Not even a little.

Like Prince, Beyonce, and Jewel pre-glow up, fish have two names: scientific name (in Latin) and common name (in English).

I didn’t know Latin, so I typically learned just the common name and called it good. Sometimes, this was problematic, but usually, it worked out fine. I know some people use mnemonics to remember names, but usually, I don’t have to with fish. I can’t even remember every woman I’ve dated (the list isn’t that long), but I can remember every fish I’ve caught (this list is pretty long). Yet, if a fish has some sort of unique identifier, it stands out that much more.

The Porthole Livebearer gets its common name for two reasons.

Let’s address the livebearer portion first. This is simple. It’s called a livebearer because it bears live young instead of laying eggs. This is fairly uncommon amongst fishes, but it makes for an interesting chance to learn a vocabulary word. I’m a teacher, remember, so don’t act surprised. Most mammals and some other animals give live birth. We refer to these fertile females full of young pregnant. You knew that, though. But the egg-layers of the world (most reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds, the Cleveland Browns) cannot be pregnant. Instead, we refer to these animals as gravid.

As for the porthole part, this will rely on your knowledge of 15th through 19th century naval construction. Portholes were small, reinforced openings built into the sides of wooden ships. They were used as windows, means for passing cargo dockside, and later, for cannon. Porthole Livebearers have several large spots along their sides that someone thought were reminiscent to portholes.

So I never made it into the world of fisheries biology, but I still stay connected to this underwater world one little fish at a time.

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#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #181 — Longfin Dace.

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