The pictures on this page direct you to different things in the water around Rio Dulce.
To navigate this page you simply hold the cursor over a image and click on that picture to take you to more information on that specific thing and to learn more about it.
Apple Snail(Pomacea flagellata)
You will probably see some enormous snail shells laying around or see one drop from a tree by a bird attempting to break the shell. You will also see little clusters of foam type, bubble looking things along the river or in the wetlands. These clusters belong to the Apple Snail. They are popular with aquarium enthusiasts or, escargout anyone?
Click on the picture for more information.
Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus)
Even out of water these little critters are extremely agressive and can give you a good pinch if they get a hold of you. But once out of the pot and onto the plate, it is all worth it.
Bull Shark(Carcharhinus leucas)
I have never seen or heard of one of these locally, but when asked, this came up and is not unheard of. I asked one elder local and he hasn't heard of or seen one in over 10 years, but they were once fluent here. The last reported shark attacks were in 1957 and the last ones I have found online were caught in 1965 by Castillo San Felipe. The largest of them measured approximately 5 feet.
Bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) are found in tropical and subtropical waters almost everywhere in the world, whereby they prefer to live close to, or even in rivers. They belong to a minority species, capable of living in sweet water as sexually mature individuals. They are thus found in various rivers such as the Mississippi, the Amazon or the Zambezi. In the Mississipi river they are found all the way up to Illinois, and in the Amazon as far inland as 3,500 km. But whole populations, not just single individuals, also live in such sweet water lakes as Lake Nicaragua or Lake Isabel in Guatemala. Their capability of tolerating varying saltwater levels means they can also be found in brackish water systems, like the Indian River System near Cape Canaveral (Florida). Bull sharks often live so long in sweet water that their metabolism adjusts to the missing salt.
Identifying marks and appearance
Bull sharks may grow to a length of 350 cm and weigh about 230 kg. Their massive appearance is rather striking. Their short and round snout is a conspicuous feature, and in contrast to other gray shark species from the Carcharhinidae family, bull sharks have very small eyes. Their most noticeable characteristic is, however, the dorsal fin which is shaped like a triangle. The body‘s colors are subdued, with a dark-gray back and a white belly. With pups, the end of the fins are black, but this coloring disappears as they grow older.
Bull sharks feed on a wide variety of water animals, including bony fishes, mollusks, crabs and at times even other sharks and rays, for they belong to the few species of sharks with cannabalistic traits.
Like all other members of the Carcharhinidae family, bull sharks are born alive (viviparous) and the litter may include 1-3 pups. Pregnancy lasts 10 to 11 months. Males reach sexual maturity between 14 and 15 years, females only at about age 18. Although bull sharks do not rear their young like most other shark species, they bear their young in protected coastal areas. It follows that most young bull sharks are found in the flat, coastal regions around the world. These "nurseries" increase their chance of survival. Bull shark youngsters grow slowly and are thus exposed to predators for fairly long periods of time, whereby larger sharks represent the main danger. However, larger predators avoid the flat regions.
Exploitation and fishing
This shark species lives primarily in shore areas and coastal regions, and thus often becomes victim to coastal fishing activities. They are primarily caught with long-lines but also frequently turn up as incidental catch. Although bull sharks rank "low" on the list of endangered species (IUCN status: lower risk), (also see article in this issue on shark protection titled "Weak shark protection") it must be assumed that the species will acquire the IUCN status of an endangered species in the foreseeable future, not least because of the increasing destruction of their nurseries by man.
Since bull sharks often live in rivers or their estuaries, accidents with humans may occur, which accounts for their relatively bad reputation in various regions of the world. In South Africa they are feared almost as much as the white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias). And frequently, it is nearly impossible to determine which species was really involved in an accident. The victims rarely remember the exact sequence of events and their descriptions of the sharks are often inaccurate. As a result the species involved can only be identifed by bite marks, but bull sharks and white sharks have very similar triangular teeth.
Fresh Water Prawn(Macrobrachium rosenbergii)
This critter was caught locally down in El Golfete. Native to the Indo-West Pacific from northwest India to Vietnam, Philippines, New Guinea and northern Australia. It is one of the biggest freshwater prawns in the world and is widely cultivated in several countries for food.
(chile apestoso, lagarto maximo) A solitary, voracious predator reaching a length of up to 16 inches. It can be found on the sandy bottoms fairly near shore from Massachusetts to Brazil and in the Gulf of Mexico. While often caught by fishermen, it's considered a nuisance.
There's a ton of Machaca on the river but they aren't a prized catch because they are so boney. The flavor is great, they make good soup and if you don't mind being aware of bones, there is nothing wrong with them.
A local delicacy and a prize for aquarium enthusiasts related to the sunfish or perch. This fascinating fish will dig a hole underwater at breeding time to lay their eggs in. They then stand watch over their hole night and day until their little ones are big enough to enter the big cruel world. At that point, the young are taken out in schools where the parents guard both sides of the school as their young get their first journeys into the big cruel world.
This edible snails shell has been found in Mayan archaeological sites along with the clam (Nephronaias ortmanni). You will usually see them where water is running like small streams.
The picture is distorted so please click on the image for a more accurate photo.
Mud Crab(Rhithropanopeus harrisii)
Commonly known as estuarine mud crab, Harris mud crabs, you usually find these around the wetland areas if the birds or otters don't get them first. They dig tunnels into muddy riverbanks and can get about 6 inches wide.
White Mullet(Mugil curema)
This is another coastal species that often enters estuaries and freshwater environments. Adult mullet have been found in waters ranging from 0 ppt to 75 ppt salinity while juveniles can only tolerate such wide salinity ranges after they reach lengths of 1.6-2.8 inches (4-7 cm). Adults form huge schools near the surface over sandy or muddy bottoms and dense vegetation.
Needlefish(Ablennes hians/Flat Needlefish)
Up to 140 cm in length and primarily an ocean fish, the Needlefish is also found in estuaries and sometimes around the marinas in small groups from 2 to 6.
Peten Catfish(Rhamdia Guatemalensis)
Not fished as a food here for some reason. There ARE catfish here in some parts where it has not been over fished by the nets.
Robalos or "Snook" live foreground in coastal and estuarinan waters, being able to be found in the high part of the rivers. They feed on other fish and
crustaceans, we feed on them.
Largetooth Sawfish (Pristis microdon)
The last photo of a sawfish here from Lago Izabal was taken in 1949. If there are any more remaining, they are considered to be critically endangered worldwide. Only 5 were recorded here in 1946 and 1947. Because of all the net fishing, it is likely that there are none left. If you should see one, please report it.
As the tides drop the saltwater from the sea advances towards Rio Dulce. At those times Tarpon and other sea fish are known to travel into the area.