An 8ft long, dried and stuffed Arapaima is missing from the Natural History Museum in London and scientists are hoping the public can help solve the mystery as to where it's gone.
The giant, air-breathing Arapaima fishes from South America are being studied to determine their species diversity by Dr. Donald J. Stewart from the State University of New York. In 2013, he published two papers, each describing a different species of Arapaima, and in those papers, he indicated that there is an 8ft long stuffed specimen missing from the Natural History Museum in London. That missing fish has tremendous taxonomic and historical significance, and scientists are asking the public to help solve the mystery of the missing giant.
The fish in question is the original specimen used to describe the species Arapaima arapaima from Guyana in 1847. It was on public exhibit at NHM from about 1905 to about 1970, in a glass case in the main entrance to the fish exhibit hall. In the early 1970’s, the public exhibit was closed for renovation, and all fish mounts were moved to storage. Today, that particular giant specimen cannot be located; a drawing of what should be that specimen is presented below.
Another dimension to this mystery is that there presently is a giant Arapaima specimen on exhibit in the museum in Tring. Some historical records suggest that the Tring specimen may be a second, look-alike specimen of about the same size . Unfortunately, many of the historical archives for the Tring collection were destroyed during World War II, so exactly when and where the Tring specimen was obtained is not clearly documented. So scientists are attempting to determine if the Tring specimen is a second specimen or is it the missing NHM specimen.
How you can help
It's possible that the mystery might be solved if experts could see photos of the Arapaima exhibit case in London taken before the exhibit was closed in the early 1970’s. Each such wild-caught specimen has natural flaws that could be used like finger prints to determine if the Tring fish matches a particular photo taken of the fish in London. Unfortunately, the photo archives at NHM do not have such a photo, but it is very likely that many public visitors to that fish exhibit did take photos of such a spectacular animal situated in the main entrance to the hall.
If you have such a photo in your family album from a visit to NHM, images can be sent as email attachments to the following dedicated account: [email protected]
There is also the slight possibility that this missing fish has been acquired by some private individual . If you know of such a giant fish hanging somewhere, please get in touch via the above email.
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