FHSU faculty, alumni, students contribute to newest edition of 'Kansas Fishes'

A fourth version of an artistic and informational masterpiece on Kansas fishes, with key contributions by Fort Hays State University faculty, alumni and students has just been published by the University Press of Kansas.

"An illustrated gem of a book, it runs over 500 pages and contains 184 full-color illustrations by FHSU grad and nationally recognized fish artist Joe Tomelleri," said Dr. Greg Farley, chair of FHSU's Department of Biological Studies.

The book, released July 7, provides a new reference on the fishes of the state. It was written as a dedication to the late Dr. Frank Cross, professor of biology studies at the University of Kansas, who had a great impact on each of the lives of the 11 committee members who began organizing the book in 2012.

Those 11 biologists represented the six regents' universities and three state agencies, whose responsibilities include the study and conservation of fishes and associated water resources, and posed as the organizing committee for the book and its 61 contributors.

FHSU's Dr. Bill Stark, professor of biological sciences, and Mark Eberle, biological sciences program specialist, served on the committee, playing important roles in the book's production. Alumnus Joe Tomelleri, also a member of the organizing committee, contributed 184 of his color illustrations, some published here for the first time.

In addition to Eberle, Tomelleri and Stark, six more FHSU biology faculty, alumni and students contributed illustrations and text.

"Of the more than 140 species of fish in Kansas," said Eberle, "about 120 are native as either residents or visitors. Twenty-eight plains species that might move into Kansas are also included, which makes the book a valuable resource for people in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and the eastern portions of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado."

Several species are now extinct in the state or listed as threatened or endangered species, said Eberle. The Northern Hog Sucker, named for its snout, is one such fish, described in the book as a "Kansas Species in Need of Conservation."

Eberle said information in "Kansas Fishes" is presented in a style intended to reach an audience that includes fisheries biologists, anglers, students and others who are interested in the state's aquatic resources. Introductory chapters summarize basic fish anatomy and physiology, the state's aquatic habitats, the history of ichthyology (fish sciences) in Kansas, and conservation and management issues.

Each account includes one or two color illustrations, a brief description of the species, a comparison with similar species, a dots-on-streams distribution map, and a narrative summaries of habitat, reproduction and growth, food and feeding habits, and conservation status.

Tomelleri's illustrations are based on live specimens. He caught the fish and put them in aquariums, analyzing each afterward.

"Although they are artfully done, these are not general artistic interpretations," said Stark. "The illustrations are truly scientific in that all counts of scales, fin rays, etc., are actual, as are the body proportions and color patterns, in very quantifiable ways."

The 121 distribution maps have their own intrigue and history. They are based on Kansas specimens housed in the research collections of several museums across the United States, including FHSU's Sternberg Museum of Natural History. These specimens are essential to verify the identity of species collected in Kansas since the late 1800s, and they help to document their distributions.

The Sternberg's collection includes more than 23,000 records, each comprised of fish specimens stored in jars of diluted alcohol. In addition to surveys conducted by faculty and students at FHSU since the 1960s, many of the specimens in the Sternberg Museum were collected by survey crews of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, many of whom were FHSU students or graduates.

"The maps were all generated for this edition, but the general form was taken
from the original 'Handbook of Fishes of Kansas' by Frank Cross," said Stark.

"Later additions deviated from this format, but we decided to return to as near the
original as contemporary information allowed," he said. "The information included on
the maps is the most up to date with regard to historical and current distributions."

"Kansas Fishes" is the third major book on natural history published recently by the University Press with FHSU connections among the authors. "Birds of Kansas," co-authored by retired FHSU biology professor Dr. Charles Ely, and the second edition of "Fishes of the Central United States," coauthored by Tomelleri and Eberle, were released in 2011.

"Handbook of the Fishes of Kansas," written by Cross and the first of four books on fishes in Kansas, was published in 1967. Now, after 47 years, book number four, "Kansas Fishes," is available at the Sternberg Museum for $39.95 and on Amazon.com for $34.96, shipping not included.

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